86.4% of food and drink products advertised as Mediterranean are not included in the Mediterranean diet and most of them have low nutritional value, according to a study by the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).
According to UPF, the research reveals that only 13.6% of the more than 200 products analyzed have a high nutritional value.
In the research, carried out by the professor of Information and Communication Sciences Studies at the UOC Mireia Montaña and the professor of the UPF Department of Communication Mònika Jiménez, 1,219 food advertisements for 103 products and 541 advertisements were analyzed. of beverages of 109 products.
The products analyzed correspond to the advertising broadcast in different types of media in Spain between 2011 and 2020.
The results showed that only 13.59% of the products advertised with the "Mediterranean" claim had a high nutritional value, based on their Nutri-Score value.
For the rest, another 13.59% had a very low nutritional value;
25.27% obtained a medium nutritional value and 19.42% had a medium-high nutritional value.
By analyzing the most used keywords in the ads, the researchers realized that these products are linked to the Mediterranean diet and this creates the "false feeling" that they are healthy.
For this reason, although it is not strictly false advertising, the researchers believe that "tighter" regulation is necessary.
"According to the Spanish legislation applied to advertising, it is not strictly misleading advertising, but the advertising law dates from the eighties and has great inaccuracies, as well as being very vague in certain aspects", Mònika Jiménez pointed out.
The food products that make the most use of the "Mediterranean" claim are fried tomatoes and sauces, followed by soups and pre-cooked food.
As for beverages, 89% of those who use it in the period studied are alcoholic, and it is a trend that is growing every year.
"From 6 food products that used the "Mediterranean" claim in 2011 we went to 20 in 2020, and this last year only 30% of the products are considered to have a high or medium-high nutritional value", said Mireia Montaña, who has added that "in beverages, the trend is also the same: we went from 8 beverages that used this claim in 2011 to 16 in 2020".
"The Mediterranean diet has been recognized as a dietary pattern that has multiple health benefits and contributes to many other sustainable development goals proposed by the United Nations", recalled the UOC professor.
"Aware of these benefits, advertising uses it as a claim to reach consumers, but misleading language can harm their health," he laments.
One of the main reasons for promoting a healthy diet based on the Mediterranean diet is to combat obesity.
According to the WHO, 44% of adults aged 18 or over are overweight or obese, and the picture is no different in Spain, since according to the 2020 European Health Survey in Spain, 16.5% of men aged 18 or over and 15.5% of women suffer from obesity.
The main cause of this situation, the researchers point out, is a diet based on products with a low nutritional level that are also rich in fat, salt or sugar.
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