The Origins of the research on the Mediterranean Diet
Lorenzo Piroddi (Genoa 1911-1999) a nutritionist who studied the link between the diet and metabolic diseases, is considered the father of the Mediterranean diet. He was the first to create a diet for his patients that imited the intake of animal fats preferring foods with vegetable fats.
The first scientist who provided international visibility to the Mediterranean diet was Ancel Keys (1904-2004), an American biologist and physiologist. Keys contributed to assigning a meaning to the term “the Mediterranean diet,” investing it with a medical and scientific dignity, and to delineating its characteristics. An expert in epidemiology and nutritionist at the Public Health School of the University of Minnesota, Keys was particularly interested in the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease.
One of the catalysts and leading investigators of the Seven Countries Study, Keys focused on the relationship between diet and the statistics on coronary heart disease. Considered a milestone in nutritional science, the study demonstrated that the better health status, in particular with regard to cardiovascular diseases, of individuals living in Mediterranean countries was due to their diet.
Keys also studied the individual components of the diet and contributed to making the Mediterranean diet popular throughout the world in the hopes that his fellow citizens would change their diet habits and adopt a more Mediterranean-like, healthier diet so as to improve the population’s general health.
Keys bought a house in Pioppi in Southern Italy where he lived for 28 years until his death while he continued to study on-site the beneficial effects of the local diet on the population’s health.