Ancel Keys

Ancel Keys, Professor at the University of Minnesota, is considered to be one of the most important scientists of the twentieth century and one of the founding fathers of physiological hygiene, the science that studies the proper functioning of the mechanisms that control the functions of our body. During World War II, he formulated the so-called "K Ration" (which takes its name from him) which is the diet, complete and compact, to be administered to American soldiers on the move. Keys founded in 1940 the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene at the University of Minnesota which became, over the years, one of the world's leading centres for research in the field of nutrition, epidemiology and human health prevention. Keys' merit lies in the fact that he was the first to understand that there is a close relationship between energy intake, energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate by providing an initial explanation of the phenomena that lead to obesity.

During his various experimental studies carried out in Italy in the town of Nicotera near Vibo Valentia, the scientist was able to show that some physical features until then considered immutable (such as physique, the level of blood fat, blood pressure, heart rate) are largely controlled through simple diet measures and physical activity. The results of his research have been granted by the scientific community who has committed itself to intervene on the basis of dietary habits to reduce the incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disease that affected the majority of the population. The physiological hygiene discipline has become, today, a central pillar of the programs and public health policy in many countries, from the United States to Europe, and is increasingly affecting the population choices and eating patterns.

Thanks to the studies of Ancel Keys we are able to scientifically prove that there is a personal responsibility of the individuals on their health status and on this principle, it is necessary that both the scientific community and the governments intervene to promote measures able to improve the health and hygiene level of the population.

In this study, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Vibo Valentia, we have illustrated the origins of the Mediterranean diet, the studies conducted by Professor Keys and the fundamental contribution that the food culture of our country, in particular the territory of Nicotera, gave to the scientific formulation of the Mediterranean Diet food model.