Dishes which are easy to prepare, as well as the innate inventiveness of the people, have helped to make the gastronomy of the varios regions of Italy a world-famous art. Similary, the plain dishes of Cilento, coupled with the art of "making do" in the kitchen (typical of the local women who often had to get by on a budget which was barely sufficient even for minimum daily essentials), have earned world-wide fame for the culinary products of Cilento. This fame is also due in no small measure to the study of the local population carried out in the fifties by a famous American nutritionist, Ancel Keys, who had landed here with the Fifth Army. In this study, he had noted a lower incidence of some diseases compared with the United States. On his return to America, the scholar undertook research which lasted twenty years and the results of which were published in his "Seven Countries' Study". The study of 12.000 subjets aged between 40 and 60, living in various countries which included Japan, the USA. Holland, Yugoslavia, Finland and Italy, confirmed Keys' theory that the more their diets differed from the Mediterranean model, the greater was the incidence of "rich man's diseases".
Certain diseases had become endemic in the industrial society of the United States, where people consumed excessive amounts of fat, carbohydrates and proteins. As a result, the Mediterranean diet became very popular there in the seventies, when American scientists placed great emphasis on the prevention of those diseases with the diet studied by Keys in Cilento.
In 1985, research by Mattson had shown that monosaturate and polyunsaturate fats lead to a reduction in the total cholesterol level and the quantity of lipoproteins in the bloodstream. Prof. Donato Lauria (who spends much of his time in Agropoli) followed this up and he and his colleagues demonstrated that a diet of cereals, greens, fruit and fish reduces both atherogenic cholesterol and the risk of cardio-vascular diseases, particulary atherosclerosis, hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. Thanks to the eco-hexa-pentanoic acids found in them, olive oil and fish (the staple diet of the people of the coastal districts of Cilento) constitute the arteries' best defence against the onset of atherosclerotic diseases.
This epidemiological investigation is still in progress, Lauria and his team just having proposed a modified anti-atherosclerotic diet, based on clinical trials directed by Prof. Mario Mancino at the second faculty of medicine and surgery of the Federico II University of Naples.