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Ancel Keys
Keys in 1945
Ancel Benjamin Keys

(1904-01-26)January 26, 1904
Died November 20, 2004(2004-11-20) (aged 100)
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater University of California at Berkeley, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Kings College, Cambridge
Known for Human Nutrition, K-ration, Mediterranean diet
Spouse(s) Margaret Keys
Scientific career
Fields Human Nutrition, Public Health, epidemiology
Institutions University of Minnesota
Academic advisors August Krogh

Ancel Benjamin Keys (January 26, 1904 – November 20, 2004) was an American physiologist who studied the influence of diet on health. In particular, he hypothesized that dietary saturated fat causes cardiovascular heart disease and should be avoided. Modern dietary recommendations by health organizations, systematic reviews, and national health agencies agree with this.

Keys studied starvation in men and published The Biology of Human Starvation (1950), which remains the only source of its kind.

He examined the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and was responsible for two famous diets: K-rations, formulated as balanced meals for combat soldiers in World War II, and the Mediterranean diet, which he popularized with his wife Margaret. Science, diet, and health were central themes in his professional and private lives.

Early life

Ancel Keys was born in Colorado Springs. In 1906 the family moved to San Francisco before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck. Shortly after the disaster, his family relocated to Berkeley where he grew up.

Keys was intelligent as a boy; Lewis Terman, a noted psychologist and inventor of the Stanford-Binet IQ Test, described him as intellectually "gifted".

During his youth, he left high school to pursue odd jobs, such as shoveling bat guano in Arizona, a powder monkey in a Colorado mine, and in a lumber camp. He eventually finished his secondary education and was admitted to the University of California at Berkeley in 1922.

Later years and death

When Keys was hired at the Mayo Foundation in 1936, he hired Margaret Haney (1909–2006) as a medical technologist. In 1939 they married and had three children. Together, Margaret and Keys co-authored three books, two of them bestsellers. They traveled the world, going to places like Japan and South Africa to record data for Ancel's published works such as the Seven Countries Study.

Keys received three notable awards: Commander, Order of the Lion of Finland (1963), the McCollum Award from the American Society of Clinical Nutrition (1967), and an honorary doctor of science from the University of Minnesota (2001).

Keys died on November 20, 2004, two months before his 101st birthday. A year earlier, he had left Pioppi, his beloved village in the Cilento region located on the southwest coast of Italy, where he had spent 28 years of his life.

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