Even if you're not one of those people who gets carb-conscious every time someone suggests pizza for dinner, we all kind of accept that pizza isn't healthy, right? Its basic components are dough, tomato sauce, and cheese. Presented like that, pizza barely even sound like a real meal. But Silvano Gallus might disagree with our assertions: For years, the Italian scientist has been studying the potential health benefits of pizza—and finally, he's even won an award at Harvard University for his work… though more than anything else, the award celebrated how unusual his research was.
Earlier this month, the 29th annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony took place at Harvard, an event organized by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research and co-sponsored by departments at the university. The program's stated goal is to "honor achievements that make people LAUGH, and then THINK [and] to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology."
Gallus took home the Medicine Prize "for collecting evidence that pizza might protect against illness and death, if the pizza is made and eaten in Italy," referencing three papers he had published between 2003 and 2006 suggesting that certain types of Italian pizza may reduce the risk of heart attacks and different types of cancer.
Importantly, when Gallus—who was wearing a pizza T-shirt under his blazer—accepted the award, he emphasized that simply chowing down on as much pizza as possible isn't a cure-all for disease. "Our interpretation is that, in Italy, pizza may represent a general indicator, a marker, of the Italian diet that as other Mediterranean diets has been shown to have major health benefits," he told the crowd. "In conclusion, we recommend eating Italian pizza, but it should be Italian [and] please hold the pepperoni for health reasons."
To put it another way, Gallus's research didn't necessarily find that pizza itself was healthy, but that eating Italian pizza was indicative of eating a healthy Italian/Mediterranean diet. Along those lines, it seems like we could also assume that eating American pizza may be indicative of eating a less healthy American diet. And in fact, in the abstract of his 2006 paper, the authors write, "The difference with selected studies from North America suggests that dietary and lifestyle correlates of pizza eating vary between different populations and social groups." As a result, it seems like the best way to get the health benefits of Italian pizza might be to move to Italy to eat it… or at least that's one way to THINK about it.