Eat Like an Italian

Time has just published my piece on the Mediterranean diet, and why it’s under threat.

In the fall of 1957, a Minnesota doctor named Ancel Keys traveled from Naples to the southern Italian town of Nicotera. The road was long and dusty, winding for hours into the mountainous toe of the Italian boot. But the trip was worth it. Keys, a physiologist who had spent World War II developing combat food rations, was searching for the answer to one of the great questions of healthy living: Why did heart attacks plague some groups of people (say, Minnesota businessmen) while leaving others (southern Italian farmers, for instance) nearly untouched?

Keys spent his stay in Nicotera measuring body-fat and cholesterol levels, gathering the first data for a global comparison of eating habits that enshrined the mediterranean diet as the gold standard for a healthy menu. in subsequent visits, Keys and his colleagues weighed the villagers’ meals and recorded their contents, showing up unannounced to ensure that what the locals were eating when the scientists arrived was what they normally ate. “Without asking permission, they would open the door and walk into the kitchen,” recalls pasquale Barbalace, 76, a resident of Nicotera who participated in the study as a young man

Read the rest.