“Food as Medicine” – Hippocratic Ancient Mediterranean Diet

Food as Medicine copy

“Food as Medicine: Exploring Nutritional Knowledge in Hippocrates Books”. My published thesis on the Hippocratic Ancient Mediterranean Diet.


The Hippocratic writings are the first written evidence of the significance that ancient doctors placed on nutrition for maintenance and restoration of health. The views of the Hippocratic doctors on health and disease and their nutritional interventions influenced medical practice and shaped medical views on the role of diet in the prevention and treatment of illness, for more than 2,500 years.

The Hippocratic writers advocated the use of diet to treat illnesses. They also paid great significance to the factors that maintained health, amongst which nutrition was one of the most important. By taking a broad view on life they advocated preventative (prophylactic) medicine.

The aim of my study was to assemble, critically appraise and produce a synthesis of nutritional guidelines and views found in the Hippocratic books. I did so by searching and reviewing the primary source: the Hippocratic Corpus. I also put the Hippocratic ideas under the light of modern nutritional knowledge, in order to assess the factual value and effectiveness of dietetic approaches and treatments proposed in the Hippocratic books.

Were the Hippocratic physicians the first to practise Nutritional Medicine in a scientific way? We all know the famous saying ‘Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be thy Food’. Were they right in saying that food can be used as medicine? What are the nutritional principles that they promoted? Can Hippocratic hypotheses/observations be validated with what research has found today?

The Hippocratic doctors weren’t aware of the human genome, but they understood that each person is different and should be treated as such. They therefore advocated the use of a meticulous medical history, which included the individual’s previous state of being, health and illness, their environment and their previous known reaction to foods. Could we then argue that they were practicing the equivalent of modern nutrigenomics? Lastly, could the review of the observational data and views concentrated in the Hippocratic books help us plan further research and ask new questions, opening new possibilities into our therapeutic approach?

All these themes are explored in detail in my book.