Keys, Ancel (Benjamin) 1904-2004

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KEYS, Ancel (Benjamin) 1904-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born January 26, 1904, in Colorado Springs, CO; died November 20, 2004, in Minneapolis, MN. Physiologist, educator, and author. Keys is best remembered as the developer of the military K-Ration, a high-calorie meal created for soldiers in the field who were without other sources of food, and for his landmark study on the adverse effects of cholesterol on heart disease. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a B.A. in management and political science in 1925, after which he became a management trainee at Woolworth's department store. Keys went back to school and earned an M.A. in zoology in 1928, followed by a Ph.D. in biology and oceanography in 1930. After studying on a fellowship in Copenhagen, he earned a second Ph.D., in physiology, from King's College, Cambridge. Joining the Harvard University faculty in 1933 as an instructor in biochemical sciences, he traveled to the Andes Mountains to study how altitude affected physiology. A two-year post at the Mayo Clinic in the mid-1930s ended when Keys went to work for the University of Minnesota in 1937. With the onset of war, he was asked by the U.S. military to develop a ration kit for soldiers that would be lightweight but also supply sufficient nutrients. The result was the K-Ration, which became a standard meal for troops during World War II. Also during the war, he studied the physiological and mental effects of starvation on the human body, the results of his research being published in 1950's Human Starvation. Keys rose to the position of professor of physiology in 1939 at the University of Minnesota, and then became professor of physiological hygiene and department head from 1943 until 1972, when he retired. One of his other major accomplishments during his career was his research into how diet increases the chances of heart failure in middle-aged men. The extensive project concluded that high cholesterol in the blood—the result of too much saturated fat in the diet—dramatically increased the risk of heart attacks. This was the first major study to demonstrate this fact convincingly to the medical community. As a result of this work, Keys, who also studied the diets of healthier men in Europe in what became known as the Seven Countries Study, advocated a Mediterranean-type diet that included olive oil, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. His ideas on nutrition were published in Eat Well and Stay Well (1957; revised edition, 1963), which he wrote with his wife, Margaret. Keys also wrote or cowrote the books The Benevolent Bean (1967), How to Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way (1975), and Seven Countries: A Multivariate Analysis of Death and Coronary Heart Disease (1980).



Chicago Tribune, November 24, 2004, section 3, p. 9.

New York Times, November 23, 2004, p. C17.

Times (London, England), November 26, 2004, p. 71.

Washington Post, November 24, 2004, pp. A1, A6.