The Rockefeller Foundation Research or the 7 countries
In 1948 the Greek government invited researchers from the
Rockefeller Foundation of the USA to help improve the "bad" living
conditions of the Cretan population following World War II.
In this context the researchers conducted a thorough
investigation of the eating habits of Cretans only to find out - to
their astonishment - that these habits were nutritionally sound,
with minor exceptions concerning mainly areas with people of low
income and very limited food production by the families themselves
(Allbaugh, et al., 1953). In broad terms, the researchers concluded
that "in general, nutrition and eating habits were very well
adapted to the natural and economic resources of the area, as well
as to the needs of the inhabitants."
The correlation of the dietary regimen Cretans with health
became widely known as the Seven Countries Study.
This study was launched a little before 1960 by the American Ancel
Keys and his associates who were intrigued by the very low
mortality and heart disease rates noted on the island.
Indeed, according to United Nations data no other area in the
Mediterranean manifested such low mortality levels than Crete, both
before and after World War II (Allbaugh et al., 1953).
The study population involved a total of 13,000 men who had been
selected from 16 different regions in seven countries (Finland,
Holland, Japan, USA, Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece). The aim of the
study was to investigate the correlation between nutrition and
cardiovascular diseases which had been unclear since then.
Comparisons among the study populations showed that the Cretan
population manifested better health and the lowest mortality rates
from coronary disease and cancer than other study populations (Keys
1970; Keys et al. 1986; Menotti et al., 1990; Menotti et. al.,
After 20 years of follow up the Cretan population had the lowest
mortality rates across the spectrum of study causes (Menotti et.
al. 1990), while after 25 years death by coronary disease on Crete
was impressively lower in relation to USA and North European
populations, even in comparison to populations of Southern Europe,
e.g. those of Italy, Yugoslavia and Corfu (Menotti et al.,