MEDWHEALTH – Development of new wheat-derived foods of the Mediterranean diet with improved nutritional and health value

One of the biggest challenges currently facing humanity is noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which are spread on the entire globe, with an increasing trend in low- and middle-income countries. Of the 57.7 million deaths that occurred worldwide in 2017, about 41 million (71%) were due to noncommunicable diseases, principally cardiovascular diseases (43.5%), cancer (22%), chronic respiratory diseases (9.5%) and diabetes (4%). The list of key ?behavioral risk factors? in NCDs incidence, reported from WHO, includes, together with harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use and physical inactivity, the dietary behavior. In the last few decades dietary habits of the population have been strongly influenced by an increasing consumption of ready meals (fast food; junk food) rich in sugar and fat and low in essential nutrients, thus contributing to overweight and obesity. In this scenario, it is highly desirable to boost correct diet habits such as the ?Mediterranean Diet?, a diet-based lifestyle spread in Mediterranean areas, defined as an ?Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity? by UNESCO, recognized as useful in the health maintenance and diseases prevention. In this context, MEDWHEALTH proposes to develop durum wheat-derived products typical of Mediterranean Diet with improved nutritional value and new technological properties. Further, the use of durum wheat in the Mediterranean tradition is often done in mixture with different crops. At this regard, MEDWHEALTH will develop new products (pasta, couscous, home-made bread) with barley and lentil mixtures, as such or malted to reduce the main anti-nutritional compounds. This research line is designed to develop novel durum-based foods traditional of the Mediterranean area by using innovative wheat materials and processes: i) high amylose durum wheat to improve fiber content, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; ii) soft durum wheat to improve sustainability, nutritional and technological quality; iii) meal flours from other cereals and legumes to improve mineral content, protein content and composition. With a view to preserving traditions, female cooperatives of different countries will be engaged to realize local food products using raw materials proposed in the project. To respect the cultural identity and local biodiversity, MEDWHEALTH will develop products typical of each country involved in the project: pasta, taralli, frise, durum wheat bread for Italy; bulgur and flat breads for Turkey; couscous for Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria; freekeh for Lebanon. MEDWHEALTH will also evaluate the protective actions of a diet based on the consumption of durum wheat-based foods improved in fiber content and protective bioactive compounds such as micronutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals on chronic metabolic and inflammatory diseases. Indeed, information and data gathered from fields, laboratories, sensorial analyses and piloting processing plants will be used to assess production costs and environmental impact of new products. These estimates are aimed to evaluate the potential development of a new value chain based on re- formulated products (pasta, couscous, freekeh, bulgur), against the conventional durum wheat-based products, focusing on the gains that downstream value chain actors can achieve. MEDWHEALTH consortium combines the expertise of partners from different Mediterranean countries (Italy, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) specialized in a broad range of disciplines: crop genetics, crop breeding, food technology, food chemistry, nutrition, medicine and economy. The combination of these disciplines and skills along the participation of industrial partners, constitutes a unique approach to provide the innovative solutions required by the project.

Deadline 30 September 2024


Institute ISPA – Institute of Sciences of Food Production

Contact Barbara Laddomada

ROLE Partner


Area Nuove frontiere dell?Alimentazione