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The Relationship between Food Styles and Health: A Contribution from Italian Official Data

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Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS,volume 85)


The link between food and health has been explored since ancient times. Studies in the medical field have highlighted how poor eating habits are related to specific diseases (i.e. diabetes or cardiovascular disease). A proper nutrition is indissolubly part of a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, food and health are essential elements to define the level of quality of life in any context, and not only at the individual level. Social Indicators Research’s approach underlines the complexity of the relationship between food and health, highlighting the role of the social context. This work analyses some of the official indicators provided by the Italian National Institute of Statistics, using the Dynamic Factor Analysis, a specific multidimensional data analysis technique that emphasizes the indicators’ dynamics in time. This makes it a valuable tool even in a perspective approach (therefore, in a Futures Studies perspective), suggesting well-founded elements for quality-of-life related policies.


  • Food and Health
  • Futures Studies
  • Social Indicators
  • DFA

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Fig. 1.1
Fig. 1.2


  1. 1.

    This paper is the result of the common work of the authors. However, Chap. 1 is to be attributed to Carolina Facioni, Chap. 2 is to be attributed to Isabella Corazziari, and Chap. 3 is to be attributed to Filomena Maggino. The views presented in this paper are to be considered personal elaboration of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Institution they are member of.

  2. 2.

    This excursus does not claim to be exhaustive at a historical or geographical level. It would be an extremely ambitious scientific challenge, which would require far more than a single monograph. Dealing with this introduction, the choice was to recall only a few of the prominent figures from the only context of Western culture contribution.

  3. 3.

    Up to the present day, medical science uses the opposite concept of eucrasia, the dyscrasia, indicating an alteration of the chemical, chemical-physical, or immunological characteristics of organic liquids, especially of blood.

  4. 4.

    However, not all the works in the Corpus can be attributable with certainty to Hippocrates. Some of the contributions were probably written over the course of several centuries and aggregated with each other at an unspecified time.

  5. 5.

    In the following text, the only acronym BC will always be present to indicate the dates before Christ. The acronym AD will instead be implied for all the years after Christ.

  6. 6.

    For example, indigestion is attributed to an excess of phlegm, caused by an inordinate food intake.

  7. 7.

    The essay was conceived in epistolary form.

  8. 8.

    The work is also known as De conservanda bona valetudine (tr.: On the need to maintain a good health), or also as Flos Medicinae Salerni (tr.: The flower of medicine of Salerno), and as Lilium Medicinae (tr.: The lily of medicine).

  9. 9.

    He was so-called because of his Arabian origins. This allows us to remember the fundamental contribution of Islamic civilization to scientific knowledge in the Middle Ages.

  10. 10.

    Sir John Harington was the inventor of the modern toilet: the invention was perhaps inspired by the hygienic principles recommended by the Salerno School.

  11. 11.

    The treatise was dedicated to the “Anglorum Regi”, who was probably Robert II, Duke of Normandy, who claimed the throne of England and visited the city of Salerno.

  12. 12.

    Another fundamental work about good manners is Il libro del Cortegiano, written between 1508 and 1524 by Baldassarre Castiglione. Indeed, it is prior to the publication of Galateo by Della Casa. However, Castiglione does not place the same emphasis on the correct behaviour at the table as Della Casa, who instead gives great relevance to the topic.

  13. 13.

    Giovanni Della Casa undertook the ecclesiastical career on the advice of Alessandro Farnese; Farnese himself, as Pope Paul III, appointed Della Casa as Apostolic Nuncio of the city of Venice in 1544.

  14. 14.

    Despite the dialogic form, in the work only Della Casa speaks to the young man, to instruct him on good manners.

  15. 15.

    It should be emphasized that at the time of the Salerno School there were already women doctors, including the legendary Trotula, who laid the foundations of modern obstetrics (Gatto, 2003).

  16. 16.

    It is important to stress that the latter revision of European Statistics Code of Practice was adopted by the European Statistical System Committee (ESSC) on 16th November 2017. Firstly adopted by the Statistical Programme Committee (SPC) in 2005, the Code was revised by the ESSC in 2011 and 2017. The Code has 16 principles concerning the institutional environment, statistical processes, and statistical outputs. It aims to ensure that statistics produced within the European Statistical System (ESS) are relevant, timely and accurate, and that they comply with the principles of professional independence, impartiality, and objectivity. A set of indicators of best practices and standards for each principle provides guidance and a reference for reviewing the implementation of the Code itself.

  17. 17.

    This last argument certainly holds true in democratic forms of government. On the contrary, the manipulation of data often characterizes authoritarian regimes. This also gives us a further measure of how important official statistical information is.

  18. 18.

    Very often, when we are faced with non-official samples, they only reproduce the demographic composition of the population. Non-official standard research would/could not select respondents in very difficult neighbourhoods, or in very difficult-to-reach areas. It would be too disadvantageous in terms of cost–benefit ratio. We are not claiming, however, that standard research results obtained from unofficial sources have no value: we are claiming that the concept of “representativeness” should not be called into question.

  19. 19.

    According to World Health Organization definition, Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are those which are not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally of slow progression. 71% of all deaths in the world are caused by NCDs. See also:

  20. 20.

  21. 21.

    1993 is the year in which Multi-purpose Surveys on households acquire a systematic character and are constituted as a real system of surveys. Previously there had been only a few rounds of surveys (1987–1991). It should be added that Istat conducts other surveys that provide information relating to families (e.g., consumer surveys), as well as elaborates health and demographic data from indirect sources.

  22. 22.

    Born in 2010 on the initiative of Istat and Cnel, the BES project is the result of the need to rethink the concept of well-being, surpassing the GDP as the main index of a nation’s well-being. The first BES Report was published in 2013. Since 2016, all BES indicators are included in the Italian Economic and Financial Document (DEF).

  23. 23.

    Active variables, units and in the above method times, are used for the determination of the factors; supplementary units, variables, and times scores on the factorial plane are predicted using only the information provided by the performed factorial analysis on active variables/individuals/times, according to the usual connotation of supplementary for units, variables in ordinary factorial or principal component analysis (Principal Component Analysis, H Abdi, L J Williams 2010)

  24. 24.

    Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics or NUTS is a geocode standard for referencing the subdivisions of countries for statistical purposes. See, for example, “NUTS—Nomenclature of territorial units for statistics”. Retrieved 18 December 2016.

  25. 25.

    Ordinary least squares method for regression, with the classic assumptions about residuals.


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Facioni, C., Corazziari, I., Maggino, F. (2022). The Relationship between Food Styles and Health: A Contribution from Italian Official Data. In: Facioni, C., Di Francesco, G., Corvo, P. (eds) Italian Studies on Food and Quality of Life. Social Indicators Research Series, vol 85. Springer, Cham.

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