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Ancient Procedures for the High-Tech World: Health Benefits and Antimicrobial Compounds from the Mediterranean Empires



Carla C.C.R. de Carvalho1, *, Maria José Caramujo2
1 IBB–Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre for Biological and Chemical Engineering, Instituto Superior Técnico, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal and
2 Centre of Environmental Biology, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande C2, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal


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Creative Commons License
© 2008 de Carvalho and Caramujo

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the IBB–Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre for Biological and Chemical Engineering, Instituto Superior Técnico, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal; Tel: +351-21-8419594; Fax: +351-21-8419062; E-mail: ccarvalho@ist.utl.pt


Abstract

This paper reviews the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and methods developed for food processing and preservation during the time of the ancient empires. In Antiquity, trees and herbs were harvested for culinary and medicinal purposes, and from the everyday handling of products and keen observation, a great body of wisdom was derived by philosophers and physicians. With modern day techniques, the suspected properties of compounds have been investigated and the beneficial properties tested. From these studies it is apparent that olive oil, herbs, essential oils and metals, when used with the backing of scientific knowledge can improve human health and the standards of living while respecting the environment. Nowadays, proliferation of disinfectants and antimicrobial agents in domestic, industrial and medical environments has contributed to the appearance of resistant microbial strains and of new pathogens. Since regulators have restricted the use and concentrations of many preservatives, sanitizers, and antimicrobial agents, the food industry is facing a problem to extend the shelf-life of products, and to keep the manufacturing environment clean. The application of natural compounds and simple techniques developed by ancient Mediterranean civilizations may prove as useful as more modern synthetic substances, thus avoiding potential threats to human health and the environment.