Italy-Bound Students to Learn Cooking the Mediterranean Way

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Made-from-scratch pasta, fresh mozzarella, whole-grain bread and savory olive oil – those are the kinds of items you might expect to see on a menu in a fine Italian restaurant, but on a University of Arizona science class syllabus? You can find them there, too, if you're among the lucky students taking part in the UA's new Mediterranean Diet and Health study abroad program.

 This week, 18 students will head to Verona, Italy as part of the inaugural program, which was created by Donato Romagnolo, professor in the department of nutritional sciences in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to teach students about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Students in the program have diverse academic backgrounds in disciplines including nutritional sciences, dietetics, public health, biology, physiology and more.

A native of Padova, Italy, Romagnolo wanted to create a study abroad program that would expose students to the traditional diet and lifestyle habits of his native country while emphasizing the link between nutrition and health.

"The evidence is there that the Mediterranean diet has protective effects against a number of chronic diseases, and that includes cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes," said Romagnolo, who also is a professor of nutritional biology and a member of The University of Arizona Cancer Center and BIO5 Institute.

"In the U.S., we are dealing with a growing population of people who are overweight, about 68 percent, and obese, 34 percent, and the number of people with diabetes has been increasingly steadily since mid-'90s. These are nutrition-related diseases," he said.

The science-based Mediterranean Diet and Health program began this month on the UA campus, where students completed a week-and-a-half of classroom work in preparation for their trip abroad. They have been learning about the various components of the Mediterranean diet as well as the diet's role in disease prevention.

Lectures will continue in Verona, where students also will get hands-on experience making meals under the guidance of students and instructors from La Cucina di Casa, a nonprofit, traditional cooking school that emphasizes everyday cooking practices and blending of Mediterranean foods into easy-to-prepare dishes.

Read the rest of this May 23, 2013 UANews article at the link below.

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