Clive McCay and Rethinking Long Term Health

Who was Clive McCay? Born in 1898 Clive McCay became a leading figure in nutrition research, however, his wise words are little headed today.

Dr. McCay was one of the first to realize that actions we take to ensure long term health today might be very very costly down the road. McCay saw a world in which everyone ate to become strong and vigorous, and that this plan was surely the key to long term health. McCay cast off the preconceived beliefs of the masses feeling that higher consumption of calories would surely lead to an increased speed of aging, and age related diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In his own words:

In this day when both children and animals are being fed to attain a maximum growth rate, it seems little short of heresy to present data in favor of the ancient theory that slow growth favors longevity.

The amazing thing is that McCay wrote this in 1934, and not in today's climate of the obesity epidemic. While everyone in nutrition was asking what diet makes us grow the fastest and look the healthiest, McCay asked: what diet makes us live the longest?

His idea was to feed a group of mice a diet low in calories but high in vitamins and essential nutrients. To test his idea he designed an experiment in which one group of mice was fed as much as they wanted, while another group was fed the special low calorie diet.

The results were astounding. The calorie restricted group lived 40% longer than the free fed group, with some individuals living twice as long as any mouse on record. In 1934 McCay published his findings in a landmark paper that would make history in nutrition and the science of aging.

McCay's discovery lent him enough prestige to design diets for soldiers in World War two, and he even went on to create a recipe for a high protein, high nutrient bread, now known as Cornell Bread.

Ever an idealist, McCay envisioned that his findings would lead the food industry to seek profit by creating a host of highly nutritious low calorie foods. The sad fact, however, is that they have done the opposite.

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