A Anemon, Yuzu, Abacus & Bassim Pictures Production
by Andreas Merkouris
The Perfect Meal - The Secrets of the Mediterranean DietFood has a great influence on our well being and our body. Everybody knows that the Mediterranean Diet, consisting of plant based foods like vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes and fruits, with few or no animal products - is good for our health. Only few of us know, however, how particular plants affect different parts of our body, our heart and mind or how the food we eat can act as medicine, if used correctly.
Narrated by Jean-Marc Barr.
The Perfect Meal follows five leading international scientists who gradually uncover the secret mechanisms of the Mediterranean Diet and reveal how certain ingredients and combinations of plant based foods can protect us from obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and brain- ageing.
The film travels from France to Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Sweden and the United States to discover the most recent science behind the healthiest food for our bodies. It captures ongoing research, including high-end medical examinations, face-to-face interviews with trial participants, experiments in labs and in olive groves, as well as moments in the daily lives of scientists and their patients.
The film uses images caught under electron microscopes and high-tech scans, combining them with animation to reveal what happens in our bodies when we eat specific food. It also uses stop motion animation and stylized sequences of vegetables and fruits, in addition to immersive scenes of the Mediterranean landscape. Furthermore, archive footage from the Mediterranean and scientific research carried out since the 1950s helps us understand the evolution of nutritional science, but also to visualize where the Mediterranean Diet comes from and how its benefits were gradually uncovered. Finally, a commentary will help to guide viewers and explain the importance of scientific findings.
Beyond the sequences shot on location and the encounters with researchers and patients, additional eminent scientists will be interviewed, offering context to the ongoing research of their peers.
The series is comprised of five episodes with the following themes: Mediterranean Discovery, Liquid Gold, Garden Superfoods, Food for Thought, and Sustainable Food (details below).
1. Episode: A Mediterranean Discovery
Upcoming London cook Marianna Leivaditaki returns to her homeland in Chania, Crete, reconnecting with her family and seeking inspiration for her new menu. “People are always looking for the next best diet and the superfoods that will make them live forever. And at some point, I thought ‘I know what the healthiest food is, I grew up with it!’ That’s when I started concentrating on the cooking traditions of Crete”. Through Marianna’s journey we explore how the Mediterranean Diet was first ‘discovered’ in Crete after World War II by American scientists, who came to the island to study the dietary habits of the long-living local population. Archive films shot in Italy and Crete capture a rare glimpse into the lives of the Cretans in the 1950’s. At the same time, we see how Crete, birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet, is experiencing an epidemic of child obesity today.
2. Episode: Liquid Gold
In Pamplona, Spain, a group of scientists has been researching the connection between our health and the food we eat since the 1980s. Led by Dr. Miguel Ángel Martínez-González and Dr. Miguel Ruiz Canela, they argue that young people in Spain have adopted a Western diet and abandoned the food traditions of their grandparents. We discover the results of the ground-breaking Predimed study, focusing on the beneficial role of olive oil. To understand how its nutrients affect our body, we travel to Cyprus to discover the work of pharmacologist Prokopios Mayiatis at an olive grove in the ‘Dead Zone’ that has divided Cyprus since the Turkish invasion in 1974. The absence of human activity or the use of pesticides helped to produce one of the healthiest olive oils in the world.
From Cyprus, we travel to the Aegean Sea in Greece, where a group of researchers are enriching the food of sea bream with olive oil to help prevent heart disease.
3. Episode: Garden Superfoods
How can food be used as preventive medicine? At Harvard University, Dr. Walter Willet has been tracking the diets of 300,000 people for 40 years. “We found that what you eat is incredibly important and that the Mediterranean Diet lowers the risk of heart disease, cancer, cognitive dysfunction, diabetes, obesity, infertility and even improves sexual function,” explains Willet. “In fact, there is growing evidence that the Mediterranean diet influences our bodies in many ways by reducing lipid levels, protecting against oxidative and inflammatory processes of cells and modifying hormones connected with cancer”.
Leading cancer scientists in Paris and Milan offer a new take on the role of vegetables in our diet, from a scientific and a gastronomical perspective. They discover how certain families of vegetables containing flavonoids and carotenoids have a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, protecting us against the chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday life. We learn why eating more of these vegetables reduces the risk of developing various forms of cancer, such as colon, breast and skin cancer. At the end of the episode, we travel to Crete with London-based chef Marianna Leivaditaki to discover a grandmother who continues to uphold an age-old culinary tradition.
4. Episode: Food for Thought
It's lunch time at an elementary school in Gothenburg, Sweden. In the school canteen, the manager checks a list by the Ministry of Health of the daily food that must include five categories of vegetables. Roots, fresh pulses, leafy vegetables, bulbs and vegetables rich in vitamin C, in different colors. Sweden is the country in Europe most faithfully following the Mediterranean diet. Children here are 15% less likely to be overweight than in Southern Europe, while the lowest consumption of vegetables by children and young people is recorded in Greece and Italy. One of them explains: “Many people don't like broccoli. I like it a lot because it looks like a tree and when I eat it I feel like a giant!...it seems strange to me that people who live near the Mediterranean eat less vegetables and fish than those of us who live far away."
5. Episode: Sustainable Food
The Mediterranean Diet is the world's most sustainable food tradition. Developed across the centuries along the shores of the Mediterranean, it is based on seasonality, locality, freshness and minimal processing - helping to give answers to some of the most urgent problems today.
Award winning ‘green chef’ Xavier Pellicer visits an organic vegetable field outside Barcelona, which supplies his restaurant with produce, while London-based Chef Marianna Leivaditakis explains her connection to the land, sea and mountains of Crete. She seeks to bring back this way of life, which pushed her ancestors to respect the environment.
Rare film archive of the Cyclades in the 1950’s brings alive daily life on this unique island archipelago, which has combined seasonality with local agricultural products and a scarcity of water for thousands of years. For Professor Antonia Trichopoulou, the Cyclades drew on a tradition of poverty to create a unique tradition which respected the environment. She believes that this can help inspire the birth of a «Planeterranean diet», one healthiest for our bodies and the planet. At the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian, the Predimed team collaborates with chefs and dieticians to create recipes which are healthy, tasty and sustainable: a perfect meal.