Alan Howard (nutritionist)

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Alan Norman Howard
Dr Alan Howard.jpg
Howard in 1999
Born16 March 1929 (1929-03-16) (age 90)
EducationCity of Norwich School,
Downing College Cambridge
Alma materDowning College, Cambridge
OccupationNutritionist and Philanthropist
Known forDevelopment of the science behind The Cambridge Diet[1] and Macular Carotenoids; Founder and Chairman of the Howard Foundation Charitable Trust[2]
Spouse(s)Grace Elizabeth (née Lee) m. 1952 d. 2008;
Lydia (née Bentley) m. 2008
ChildrenJonathan Lee,
Julie Elizabeth
Parent(s)Leonard Arthur Howard
Elsie Lilian Atkins
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) 1968
Honorary Fellowship of Downing College, Cambridge, 1987.[3]
Honorary DSc University of Ulster 1996[4]
Companion of The Guild of Cambridge Benefactors (12 November 2001)
The Chancellors 800th Anniversary Medal for outstanding philanthropy from the Guild of Cambridge Benefactors 2009[5]
Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Honorary Fellowship (25 October 2019)[6]

Alan Howard is an English nutritionist. He gained an MA in natural sciences[7] and PhD in immunology at Downing College Cambridge. He then trained as a nutritionist at the Medical Research Council's Dunn Nutritional Laboratory[8] also in Cambridge. His lifelong research interests are in the field of nutrition, initially in the nutritional relationships associated with coronary heart disease and the treatment of obesity and latterly into eye and brain nutrition.[9] His inventions and patents related to Very Low Calorie Diets[10] enabled him to establish the Howard Foundation.[2] which has made significant donations to Downing College Cambridge,[5] the Waterford Institute of Technology[11][12] and in sponsoring continued academic research[2]

Academic career[edit]

Howard won a scholarship to Downing College Cambridge in 1948 to read Natural Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Metallurgy and Mathematics). For his PhD he worked in the Department of Medicine with Robin Coombs, a notable immunologist. Howard's thesis was on "The reaction of diazonium compounds with amino-acids and proteins and its application to immunology".[13]

Howard's academic career covered periods:

  • 1951 to 1959 demonstrator in practical classes, Part I Organic Chemistry, Chemical Laboratory, Cambridge
  • 1954 to 1966 Supervisor in Chemistry, Downing, Peterhouse and Newnham colleges, Cambridge
  • 1954 to 1960 at the MRC Unit in Nutrition in Cambridge (now the MRC Human Nutrition Research department founded in 1998)
  • 1960 to 1973 in the Department of Pathology at Cambridge University under Austin Gresham then Professor of Morbid Anatomy and Histopathology.
  • 1965 to 1969 Lecturer on ‘Lipid Metabolism’ in Comparative Pathology, Part II Course, Cambridge University
  • 1973 to 1984 in the Department of Medicine at Cambridge University under Professor Ivor Mills, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians[14]
  • 1983 to 1992 as a College Lecturer in Nutritional Research at Downing College Cambridge University.[15]

In November 2018, Downing College commemorated the formal entry of Alan Howard as a student at Downing on 4 November 1948 with an entry on their website.[16]

Early work on atherosclerosis[edit]

At the MRC Unit, Howard began working on experimental atherosclerosis. He continued this study while at the Department of Pathology and was secretary for the first International Symposium On Atherosclerosis held in Athens in 1966 and was an editor of the proceedings.[17] The Proceedings of the XIIth International Symposium on Atherosclerosis held in Stockholm 25–29 June 2000 contain two papers reviewing the significance of the first symposium: "The First International Symposium on Atherosclerosis in Athens 1966" by Alan N. Howard and "The significance and importance of the Athens Symposium" by M. Daria Haust.[18]

Early work on obesity[edit]

While at the Department of Pathology and through working with another local company, Spillers Ltd, Howard started doing clinical trials on the high-protein “Cambridge Formula Loaf”.[19] Collaborating with several local GPs and using brown bread as a control, he found that people lost more weight while on the Cambridge Loaf together with a low-calorie diet. This work was published in a paper in The General Practitioner [20] (the forerunner of the current British Journal of General Practice) and was used commercially until Spillers closed its manufacturing plant.

This led to Howard becoming secretary to the newly formed Obesity Association (aka The Obesity Society of Great Britain and now the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)[21]). Founded in 1967 to promote obesity research in the UK, the association was chaired by Ian MacLean Baird from the West Middlesex Hospital. In 1968, the society held its first International Symposium in London. The proceedings were edited by Baird and Howard. [22]

Howard became secretary and later chairman of The Food Education Society[23] from 1970 until 1990. Howard was invited to take part in the BBC series Don't just sit there ... in July 1974 [24] with William Rushton and others. He then co-authored a book Don't just sit there which was published by the BBC in 1978.[25]

Howard and George A. Bray (from the University of California) organised the first International Congress on Obesity (ICO) which was held at the Royal College of Physicians in London in October 1974, and attracted over 500 attendees from 30 countries. They were also the founding co-editors of The International Journal of Obesity (IJO) which began in 1977. These early initiatives led in 1985/86 to the formation of the International Association for the Study of Obesity which since 2014 is known simply as World Obesity[26]

The Cambridge Diet[edit]

While in the Department of Medicine at Cambridge University, Howard's team ran a longstanding "lipid clinic" at Addenbrookes Hospital between 1973 and 1980.[27] This was one of six European centres where the Dutch company Organon International sponsored research and clinical trials. Howard collaborated with Ian MacLean Baird, then a consultant at West Middlesex Hospital, to devise a low-calorie diet formula designed for morbidly obese patients. This was initially named “Howard's Diet”.

Also in 1973, Howard began to direct Dennis Jones, a nutritionist and specialist in food chemistry from Organon, to convert the research concept into a commercially viable formulation. In 1979, it emerged in the US as The Cambridge Diet[28] The patents[1] of which Howard was a co-inventor were initially licensed to a Californian company, Cambridge Plan International (CPI), who, from 1980, marketed the formula in the US as the 'Cambridge Diet'. This was sold initially by mail order and subsequently through network marketing and a "Cambridge Counsellor" system. Whilst this led to rapid growth, CPI encountered issues[29][30] which led to it filing for Chapter 11 administration[31] in 1983.

In 1982, Howard, his son Jon and Howard's younger brother Roger formed Cambridge Nutrition Limited.

As a result, from 1984 to 1986 there were two competing "Cambridge Diets" in existence, as CPI had separately launched in various countries, including a pre-launch in UK.

In 1986 a Howard Foundation company bought out CPI's international rights, and the 'Cambridge Diet' has remained a separate organisation in the US.[32]

In 1985, Howard and John Marks[33] wrote a book “The Cambridge Diet – A Manual for Health Professionals” published by Jonathan Cape in 1986 with a foreword by Ivor H Mills, then Professor of Medicine at the University of Cambridge. The foreword to the later edition in 1997, published by Cambridge Export Limited, was written by John Butterfield, formerly Regius Professor of Physic at the University of Cambridge. The book was translated into Danish as 'Cambridgekuren' for use in the Scandinavian market.

From 1985 to the late 1980s, the Cambridge Diet was strongly promoted in the UK by Howard using direct marketing and thereafter, mainly through distributors, in various Northern European countries and around the world. The Polish website for the Cambridge Weight Plan contains an interview with Dr Howard in which he discusses the background to the Cambridge Diet[34]

In the early 2000s the manufacturing company at Corby, Northants became the group headquarters for the UK and export functions.

In 2005 Howard directed that the remaining business be sold through a management buyout. The company changed its name to the Cambridge Weight Plan and continues as a successful employee-owned trust[35][dubious ]

Later research on VLCD and coronary heart disease[edit]

Howard established Howard Foundation Research (HFR) in 1986 to carry out scientific research into low-calorie diets under the direction of Stephen Kreitzman. HFR has published numerous scientific papers, most notably a 1993 monograph "The Swansea Trial"[36] edited by Dr S N Kreitzman and Dr A Howard. In 2000 Howard directed Howard Foundation Research Ltd be sold under licence to managers who devised the Lipotrim[37] programme to allow the formula to be prescribed privately by health practitioners in UK and Ireland.

In 1991, Howard established the COAG Trace Elements Laboratory, based at Papworth Hospital, near Cambridge. The COAG Laboratory ran until 2000 carrying out research into aspects of nutrition and health, especially the prevention of coronary heart disease. When the laboratory closed, the equipment was transferred to the University of Ulster and the Poznan University of Medical Sciences, for the continuation of research programmes.

Research into macular degeneration and carotenoids[edit]

In 1995, Howard started work with Dr Richard Bone[38] and Dr. John Landrum[39] at Florida International University (FIU). Together they patented a formulation containing Meso-zeaxanthin, Lutein and Zeaxanthin,[40] manufactured by Industrial Organica SA (IOSA) in Monterey, Mexico, and sold in Europe as Macushield and in North America as Macuhealth (also known as LMZ3). Its purpose was to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In 2009, Howard began working with the Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG) at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland. In 2015, the Howard Foundation[2] established Prof John Nolan, principal investigator at the MPRG, as the Howard Chair in Human Nutrition with tenure for 10 years[41]

In June 2018, Howard and Nolan were co-authors of a paper in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease that reported the results of a small 18-month study by the MPRG that showed improvements in the health of Alzheimer's patients using the three macular carotenoids and fish oil.[42]


  1. ^ a b Dietary Supplement and dietary methods employing said supplement for the treatment of obesity, GB Patent 1493993 19750516
  2. ^ a b c d The Howard Foundation Website
  3. ^ Honorary Fellows of Downing College Cambridge
  4. ^ Honorary DSc University of Ulster
  5. ^ a b University of Cambridge News 22 July 2009
  6. ^ WIT Awards Honorary Fellowship To Philanthropist Dr Alan Howard (WIT News)
  7. ^ Natural Sciences (Cambridge)
  8. ^ History of the Dunn
  9. ^ Power R, Coen RF, Beatty S, Mulcahy R, Moran R, Stack J, Howard AN, Nolan JM. (January 2018). "Supplemental Retinal Carotenoids Enhance Memory in Healthy Individuals with Low Levels of Macular Pigment in A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial". Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 61 (3): 947–961. doi:10.3233/JAD-170713. PMID 29332050.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Howard AN (1981). "The historical development, efficacy and safety of very-low-calorie diets". Int J Obes. 5 (3): 195–208. PMID 7024153.
  11. ^ The Howard Laboratory
  12. ^ The Howard Gate
  13. ^ Downing College Archive
  14. ^ Professor Ivor Mills
  15. ^ Cambridge University Reporter 20 April 1983
  16. ^ Celebrating 70 years since Dr Alan Howard's matriculation
  17. ^ Paoletti, Rodolfo., Miras, C. J., Howard, Alan N. (1968). Recent Advances in Atherosclerosis. Basel; S. Karger. ISBN 978-3805503839.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Sten Stamme, Anders Olsson (2000). Atherosclerosis XII. Elsevier.
  19. ^ Cambridge Formula Loaf
  20. ^ Howard AN, Anderson TB (1968). "The Treatment of Obesity with a High-Protein Loaf". The Practitioner. 201: 491–496.
  21. ^ "Home".
  22. ^ Early history of the ASO
  23. ^ The Food Education Society
  24. ^ "Don't Just Sit There..." BBC One London. 1974-07-24.
  25. ^ Al Murrey, Mary Perigoe, Dr Alan Howard (1978). Don't just sit there. Barron's Educational Series Inc. ISBN 978-0-8120-0789-3.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ World Obesity
  27. ^ John Marks, Alan Howard (1997). The Cambridge Diet, A manual for health professionals. Cambridge Export Limited. p. 59.
  28. ^ The Cambridge Diet USA
  29. ^ Washington Post article by Cynthia Gorney
  30. ^ New Yorker Magazine: “The Cambridge Obsession” by Jack Friedman Dec 20 1982
  31. ^ Chapter 11 Administration
  32. ^ Cambridge Diet USA
  33. ^ [John Marks MA, MD, FRCP, FRCPath, FRCPsych Life Fellow, Girton College, Cambridge]
  34. ^ Interview with Cambridge Weight Plan creator – Professor Alan Howard
  35. ^ The Cambridge Weight Plan.
  36. ^ Howard, Alan N., Kreitzman, Stephen N (1993). The Swansea Trial : Body Composition and Metabolic Studies with a Very-low-calorie Diet. London: Smith-Gordon. ISBN 978-1854630704.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  37. ^ Lipotrim
  38. ^ Dr Richard Bone
  39. ^ Dr John Landrum
  40. ^ Bone RA, Landrum JT, Cao Y, Howard AN, Alvarez-Calderon F (2007). "Macular pigment response to a supplement containing meso-zeaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin". Nutr Metab (Lond). 4: 12. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-4-12. PMC 1872023. PMID 17498306.
  41. ^ Appointment of John Nolan
  42. ^ Nolan John, Mulcahy Riona, Power Rebecca, Moran Rachel, Howard, Alan (2018). "Nutritional Intervention to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease: Potential Benefits of Xanthophyll Carotenoids and Omega-3 Fatty Acids Combined". Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 64 (2): 367–378. doi:10.3233/jad-180160. PMID 29945352.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)