Ancel Keys: The legacy of a giant in physiology, nutrition, and public health

  title={Ancel Keys: The legacy of a giant in physiology, nutrition, and public health},
  author={Jean Pierre Montani},
  journal={Obesity Reviews},
  • J. Montani
  • Published 26 January 2021
  • Medicine
  • Obesity Reviews
Ancel Keys, whose life spanned over 100 years (1904–2004), made a wealth of seminal scientific and public health contributions. As a physiologist, nutritionist, and public health scientist, he has left his mark on the 20th century by exploring different areas of physiology and nutrition, as well as by contributing to the understanding of basic public health issues. Among his major achievements one can mention in chronological order: studying adaptation to very high altitude, developing the K… 

Pathogenesis of obesity and cardiometabolic diseases: From the legacy of Ancel Keys to current concepts

  • A. DullooJ. Montani
  • Medicine, Biology
    Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity
  • 2021
The legacy of Ancel Keys is put into perspective in eight review articles that cover research areas that include the diagnosis of obesity for health risks, the role of dietary fat types in the pathogenesis of obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, and the psychological and physiological basis of the “famine reaction” that counters therapeutic dieting and facilitates weight regain.

Cholesterol - the devil you know; ceramide - the devil you don't.

Mediterranean Diet and Physical Activity as Healthy Lifestyles for Human Health

Health status is influenced by several factors, such as proper dietary pattern and regular physical activity (PA), which are crucial elements of lifestyle in terms of the prevention and treatment of



A Global Journey – Ancel Keys, the FAO, and the Rise of Transnational Heart Disease Epidemiology, 1949–1958

This paper examines how Ancel Keys’ service as chair of the UN FAO Committee on Caloric Requirements and the UNFAO Expert Committee on Nutrition led him to think globally about the relationship between diet and cardiovascular health, and to launch the first international comparative epidemiological study of diet and heart disease, the Seven Countries Study.

The contribution of Swiss scientists to the assessment of energy metabolism

A trip down memory lane, this review focuses on some of the earlier leading Swiss scientists who have contributed to a better understanding of the metabolic basis of obesity, ranging from the development of whole-body concepts to molecular mechanisms.

Ancel Benjamin Keys (1904–2004): His early works and the legacy of the modern Mediterranean diet

This historiographic portrait of Dr Keys describes his humble beginnings, highlights critical points in his career, discusses his seminal research into diet and culture as protective agents, and details his legacy as the pioneer of the modern MDiet.

Commentary: Origins and evolution of body mass index (BMI): continuing saga.

Ancel Keys’ interest in and contributions to the detailed anthropometry involved in the indices tested here date to his earlier work on nutrition, body composition and performance in studies of semi-starvation and other stresses imposed among conscientious objectors to war and among army personnel during and after World War II.

Body composition phenotypes in pathways to obesity and the metabolic syndrome

Recent advances in concepts about body composition phenotypes and health risks are reviewed in the light of race/ethnic variability in metabolic susceptibility to obesity and the metabolic syndrome.

How dieting makes some fatter: from a perspective of human body composition autoregulation

Re-analysis of classic longitudinal studies of human starvation and refeeding suggests that feedback signals from both fat and lean tissues contribute to recovering body weight through effects on energy intake and thermogenesis, and that a faster rate of fat recovery relative to lean tissue recovery is a central outcome of body composition autoregulation that drives fat overshooting.

Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874)--the average man and indices of obesity.

  • G. Eknoyan
  • Medicine
    Nephrology, dialysis, transplantation : official publication of the European Dialysis and Transplant Association - European Renal Association
  • 2008
The quest for a practical index of relative body weight that began shortly after actuaries reported the increased mortality of their overweight policyholders culminated after World War II, when it became evident that the best index was the ratio of the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters, or the Quetelet Index.

Invited Commentary: 30-Year Perspective on the Seven Countries Study

The article is a succinct and accessible account by Ancel Keys, near the end of his long career, of the SCS design, conduct, and findings, with his discussion and interpretation of their importance.