The group says it is launching a lengthy campaign to help educate American consumers on the health benefits of the Mediterranean style of eating. Oldways will then create a consumer-friendly symbol -- much like its "Whole Grains" stamp -- to help flag food products that fit with the Mediterranean diet.
The science behind the heart-healthy Mediterranean style of eating -- which emphasizes fruits, cereals, whole grains, legumes, fish and olive oil -- gained popularity in the media in recent years. Oldways says it plans to take advantage the science to help the diet become popular in the United States.
"Governments have failed every time they've tried to persuade the public to eat and drink healthily," said Oldways president Dun Gifford. "But food manufacturers respond to demand from consumers. Our job is to create consumer demand for healthy foods eaten in a healthy pattern."
Oldways, a Boston-based think tank, says it expects to unveil its "Mediterranean" symbol sometime in the first quarter of 2007. The symbol's unveiling would also kick off Oldways' four-year campaign to help promote the healthy Mediterranean lifestyle.
"The new scientific evidence is there," said Gifford. "The second step is to communicate this evidence to consumers, and the third step involves connecting the science with specific foods."
Though Gifford says it will take some time for U.S. manufacturers and consumers to become comfortable with the Mediterranean lifestyle, he doesn't doubt that the diet will be a success.
"We expect the education campaign to last four years, as that's how long something like this takes to be effective and develop durability," Gifford said. "Merchandisers and food manufacturers need to know that this is something they can trust, something that will be around for a long time and something that will get the attention of people."
The Mediterranean diet is expected to be more successful than other popular diets because it is non-restrictive, emphasizing eating plenty of the right foods, including pasta and vegetables.