The Mediterranean diet “is characterized by abundant plant foods (fruit, vegetables, breads, other forms of cereals, beans, nuts and seeds), fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, olive oil as the principal source of fat, dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt) and fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts, zero to four eggs consumed weekly, red meat consumed in low amounts, and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts, normally with meals. The Mediterranea diet is low in saturated fat (less than or equal to 7-8% of energy) with total fat ranging from less than 25% to greater than 35% of energy throughout the region.”

This, according to the Diet Dictocrats, is the diet that we should adopt to protect ourselves from chronic disease, especially heart disease. The author of this theory, and the first to describe the Mediterranean diet in these terms, was Ancel Keys, architect of the lipid hypothesis, namely that heart disease is caused by “the major dietary villain,” saturated fat from meat and dairy products.2 According to Keys, his introduction to the Mediterranean diet began in the early 1950s when he was a visiting professor at Oxford. In 1951, he chaired the first conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at their headquarters in Rome. “The conference talked only about nutritional deficiencies. When I asked about the diet and the new epidemic of coronary heart disease, Gino Bergami, Professor of Physiology at the University of Naples, said coronary heart disease was no problem in Naples.”