Mens sana in corpore sano
The phrase “mens sana in corpore sano” (healthy mind in healthy body) is a Latin phrase taken from a paragraph of the Satires of Decimo Giunio Giovenale (Roman poet and rhetorician who lived between 50 and 60 and died after 127 AD).
Beyond the original and implicit meaning in Juvenal’s work, in modern use a different meaning is attributed to the phrase, meaning that, in order to have healthy faculties of the soul, one must also have healthy ones of the body by virtue of the unity psychophysics.
In even more recent times and, that is, those we are living, the term can take on an even more complete and more universal meaning, meaning the perfect balance and relationship between humanity (the mens) and the planet we inhabit (the body). .
In summary, to have a synchronous and non-conflictual relationship with planet Earth, humanity must find a new path that allows it to achieve true well-being (not only exclusively economic) without damaging, indeed promoting, the value of every form of life on earth, thus protecting biodiversity, fertility, resources and all tangible and intangible assets.
This reasoning, which might seem ideal and utopian, is instead at the heart of the report “One Health: a new approach to food – The Double Pyramid to connect food culture, health and climate”.
As is known, the inverted Double Food Pyramid, called the environmental pyramid, classifies foods based on the environmental impact obtained from their production and cultivation.
At the top we find the largest area with all those foods that are most harmful to the environment.
Thus, the findings of this report have highlighted, with greater clarity, the need for an innovative approach to address the urgency of healthy and sustainable food systems.
Not only that, it emerges that healthy food systems are not only sustainable for the vigor of the planet (the body) but also for the physical and spiritual well-being of all peoples (the mens).
It is known that in 2050 the food system will have to feed about ten billion people: in this sense, Objective 2 (Zero Hunger) of the 2030 Agenda, as we are proceeding, seems truly unattainable.
It is not just a matter of applying International Agreements or, at a European level, of certain strategies, first of all the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030, but of resolving the multiple disparities and their opposites as a unit: from those who die of hunger to who dies because he eats too much and badly. Added to this is the duty not to further destroy the resources of the planet, which already does not enjoy an enviable state of health.
In fact, it is a question of converting, in a virtuous sense, the models of food production and consumption, at the same time improving the health of man and the planet and thus reversing the widening gap of disparities and global degradation.
Speaking of healthy eating, in recent decades, reference has often been made to the Mediterranean Diet (considered not only healthy, but also sustainable) and to the Food Pyramid where the foods to be eaten always and those to be eaten sparingly are represented.
But if the Mediterranean Diet (intangible cultural heritage of humanity of UNESCO since 2010), despite some of its controversies, represents a model suited to the needs of the Double Pyramid, what happens when we move away from the countries where this diet has its roots in history, local geography and culture?
In short, is the same food system suitable for everyone and in every part of the world?
To answer this question, the University of Naples Federico II and the Barilla Foundation have tried to give an answer in the “One Health Report: a new approach to food – The Double Pyramid to connect food culture, health and climate”.
The answer is that there can (I might add, there must) be different but equally healthy models, across seven Double Pyramid models of health and climate. Different variations of healthy and sustainable food that are accessible, affordable, safe, equitable and culturally acceptable that help people make the right food choices.
Obviously, all of this is connected and combined with new paradigms and models between production and consumption (to which the European Union has dedicated the Farm to Fork Strategy) and which see in agroecology the new scientific-technical and practical frontier of how produce and consume, respecting social systems and ecological systems, and which must be declined through that now universally recognized criterion of Food Sovereignty (phrase coined for the first time in 1996 by the members of Via Campesina).
In this sense, the link between the Double Pyramid, Agroecology and Food Sovereignty recognizes a fundamental role for farmers and fishermen in the eco-sustainable transition of global food systems.
They must be guaranteed access to land and markets, seeds and technology: the key to increasing productivity and resilience to climate change, guaranteeing food sovereignty, and at the same time protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.
In order to be able to face this immense evolution, and lead us in this direction, all people (and therefore not only farmers, fishermen and workers in the various sectors) must be correctly informed and involved.
In fact, agri-food systems (together with the related lifestyles) are held responsible for emissions of climate-altering gases, soil degradation, water consumption, deforestation, loss of biodiversity. It is clear how necessary a change is that, in addition to nutrition, involves both health and the environment.
In this sense, the Health Pyramid contains a list of foods that should be consumed often to protect themselves from cardiovascular diseases and those that, on the contrary, can facilitate their onset. The peculiarity is that the foods are grouped into categories (for example, vegetable oils) and not considered as individual foods (for example, olive oil). This is because the principles of a healthy diet must be related to the availability of raw materials and the local food culture.
The Climate Pyramid, on the other hand, is based on the carbon footprint of foods: where, for example, those of animal origin cause higher emissions than foods of plant origin.
Thus, for its socio-political developments, the application of the Double Pyramid to seven different geographical and cultural contexts becomes interesting: South Asia, East Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, the Nordic Countries and Canada, Latin America, the United States. For each region, the most representative countries were chosen in terms of population size and geographical distribution. In addition, 44 experts participated in an online consultation.
The result led to the elaboration of seven cultural Double Pyramids made up of about 45 foods divided into 18 groups, which take into account traditional and local diets and new food trends.
The Double Pyramid of Health and Climate assesses the relationship between food and health and between the food system and the environment. It takes into consideration all consumption occasions, therefore not only main meals but also snacks, street food, packed lunches, etc., providing an overall overview of nutrition.
It should not be forgotten that in some parts of the world food is connected to religion, which in some cases (such as the Jewish or Muslim one) has very strict prescriptions.
In a nutshell, what is good for your health is also good for the planet.
It emerged that, in general, the foods we should consume more often to preserve our health are also those that have the least climate impact. But it also emerges that it is possible to respect local traditions and preferences while limiting the environmental impact.
In a nutshell, the assumption “mens sana in corpore sano” makes us understand that there is an identity and unity between our planet (defined in some Eastern cultures: Mother Earth) and the populations that inhabit it, inseparable and non-alienable. A local cultural and social biodiversity to be protected and promoted.
At the end of the Report, 10 strategic recommendations were formulated which become the political guideline for all the countries of the world and which we report in full:
– Include sustainability and health in all policies and sectors, including schools, health, workplaces, agricultural and economic policies, through wider food education and information campaigns.
– Establish standards for sustainable diets, setting and monitoring indicators, and address key trade-offs through multi-stakeholder collaboration and participatory governance.
– Promote sustainability and reconnect it with culinary traditions, heritage and history, while promoting global safety regulations and protocols for nutritious foods.
– To devise policy interventions able to bring about a structural change to address the totality of the change in eating habits, as well as the socio-economic and environmental implications.
– Promote integrated urban food policies that support shorter supply chains, offer urban agriculture programs to support local markets and tackle food deserts.
– Create infrastructure and promote education and training programs to incentivize farmers to farm sustainably and access nutritious food markets.
– Adopt a food supply policy with a lower environmental impact capable of ensuring access to healthy, nutritious and sustainable food in all public and private institutions, while supporting local economies and farmers.
– Propose, verify and fine-tune the principles of sustainability in food guidelines and ensure that nutritional recommendations are based on the best scientific evidence available.
– Redirect agricultural subsidies away from staple crops towards nutritious and sustainable food to ensure its availability and accessibility to the most vulnerable groups.
– Foster the adoption of healthy and sustainable food choices by enabling food environments and exploiting the full potential of food product advertising and marketing.
For every country, of any culture, geographical position and political and religious orientation, this decalogue represents the central pivot on which to rotate future (but now urgent) policies to guarantee an integral ecology that reconnects humanity and the planet, healing those immense wounds planetaries opened by an irresponsible and reckless liberal model.
Unfortunately, the pressures to which the political representations of all parts of the world are subjected, by the economic and multinational powers, slow down and considerably adulterate this process which cannot be blocked historically but which risks making us pay too high a bill.
This is why we need not only an awareness of all peoples but, above all, a commitment to a completely new cultural and philosophical paradigm, without which, any Entropy (not only the one that is causing global warming), including that of disparities social, will plunge us into an abyss that we will all pay, multinationals and financial systems first.