Health

Italian Scientist Awarded Spoof Prize for His Research On Pizza

Silvao Gallus found that consuming pizza made with traditional ingredients protects against some chronic diseases.

Adding extra virgin olive oil to traditional Neopolitan pizza. Photo courtesy of Enzo Coccia
Sep. 23, 2019
By Julie Al-Zoubi
Adding extra virgin olive oil to traditional Neopolitan pizza. Photo courtesy of Enzo Coccia

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Italian sci­en­tist Silvao Gallus was recently awarded the satir­i­cal 2019 “Ig Nobel Prize” for Medicine for his research into the health ben­e­fits of pizza.

From this research, Gallus con­cluded that eating pizza made with ingre­di­ents from the Mediterranean diet can pro­tect from some chronic dis­eases. Gallus, who is affil­i­ated with the Mario Negri Institute in Milan and the University of Maastricht, wore a pizza embla­zoned t‑shirt to the awards cer­e­mony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater.

We found that pizza con­sump­tion in Italy was pro­tec­tive for many chronic dis­eases that are known to be influ­enced by diet: diges­tive tract can­cers and infarc­tion.- Silvao Gallus, winner of Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine

The Ig Nobel Prize, which have been run­ning for 29 years, is a joint ini­tia­tive between the Annals of Improbable Research and Harvard University. All prizes are awarded for real achieve­ments and sci­en­tific research which, “makes people laugh and then makes them think.”

Improbable Research

Gallus was delighted to receive his cer­tifi­cate, trophy and $10 tril­lion Zimbabwean dol­lars (which is no longer in use) from a gen­uine Nobel Laureate.

See more: Health News

“I am hon­ored to have obtained this achieve­ment for a bizarre but impor­tant award,” he told a packed audi­ence. “A good pizza com­prises all the virtues of the Mediterranean Diet.”

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Before his accep­tance speech was, in cus­tom­ary fash­ion, cut short by a young girl wan­der­ing onto the stage com­plain­ing, “please stop. I’m bored.” He man­aged to add, “we found that pizza con­sump­tion in Italy was pro­tec­tive for many chronic dis­eases that are known to be influ­enced by diet: diges­tive tract can­cers and infarc­tion.”

Gallus, who heads the lab­o­ra­tory of lifestyle epi­demi­ol­ogy at the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, has led three stud­ies on the health ben­e­fits of pizza, which led him to con­clude that the iconic Italian dish warded off heart attacks and some forms of cancer.

Gallus was adamant that the ingre­di­ents needed to be Mediterranean and not as he termed, “made accord­ing to for­eign inter­pre­ta­tions.”

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Enzo Coccia, a Neapolitan master pizza maker who runs a renowned pizza acad­emy and a couple of restau­rants in Naples told Olive Oil Times he was delighted to hear of Gallus’ Ig award.

“It is good news for Italian piz­zaioli because it could be a pulse to spread some typolo­gies of pizzas made with these top­pings to pro­pose to cus­tomers,” he said.

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Coccia also said that although he had not met Gallus in person he was fully aware of the scientist’s research into the health ben­e­fits of pizza and was look­ing for­ward to being intro­duced to him.

Coccia paid trib­ute to Gallus for con­tin­u­ing the work of Ancel Keys who first defined the Mediterranean diet and remained a strong advo­cate of it until his death at the age of 100 in 2004.

“Silvao Gallus has con­tin­ued the work of Ancel Keys on the Mediterranean diet, because in 2006 in research in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, he wrote about the ben­e­fits of lycopene in tomato, antiox­i­dants in extra virgin olive oil, min­eral salts and vit­a­mins in some veg­eta­bles.”

In 1958, Keys launched the pio­neer­ing “Seven Countries Study” which was one of the first to attribute the Mediterranean diet with improv­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar health.

Coccia went on to dis­cuss the impor­tant role of olive oil in pizza making saying, “Extra virgin olive oil is fun­da­men­tal because it rep­re­sents a link between the ingre­di­ents that make the pizza. If I make a dish of dough (focac­cia) and put in it a light fruity oil with a del­i­cate scent and add oregano and garlic, I have cre­ated a mas­ter­piece.”

In 2017, Neapolitan pizza twirling made head­lines when it was UNESCO World Heritage status and was added to the orga­ni­za­tion’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In 2010, Naples Pizza was approved for a “tra­di­tional spe­cialty guar­an­teed” label rec­og­niz­ing it as a slice of Europe’s food her­itage.

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