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Norwich-born inventor of revolutionary Cambridge Diet dies at age of 91

PUBLISHED: 06:08 15 July 2020

Alan Howard, pictured in his lab at Cambridge University. Picture: Howard Foundation

Alan Howard, pictured in his lab at Cambridge University. Picture: Howard Foundation

Howard Foundation

The Norwich-born inventor of revolutionary weight-loss plan The Cambridge Diet has died at the age of 91.

DR.ALAN HOWARD - FOUNDER OF THE CAMBRIDGE DIET AND EX EATON(CITY OF NORWICH)SCHOOL PUPIL.  Paul Hewitt 7/12/1998DR.ALAN HOWARD - FOUNDER OF THE CAMBRIDGE DIET AND EX EATON(CITY OF NORWICH)SCHOOL PUPIL. Paul Hewitt 7/12/1998

Alan Howard, who alongside his brother Roger launched the pioneering diet in 1984, which survives today as the Cambridge Weight Plan.

Dr Howard invested the formula diet while at Cambridge University in the 1970s, where he worked alongside others to research means of helping morbidly obese patients lost weight.

This six years of research, between 1973 and 1979, eventually evolved into The Cambridge Diet - a formula diet which allowed people to consume their daily requirements of vitamins and minerals without exceeding 450 calories.

Dr Howard was born in Norwich in 1929 and studied at the City of Norwich School, where he specialised in chemistry.

The Norwich-born founder of the Cambridge Diet, Roger Howard has died of prostate cancer, aged 74. Pictured: Roger and his brother Alan.The Norwich-born founder of the Cambridge Diet, Roger Howard has died of prostate cancer, aged 74. Pictured: Roger and his brother Alan.

From here, he moved on to Downing College Cambridge to study natural science, going on to earn a PhD in 1955.

This was followed by a career at the university spanning 37 years, until leaving in 1992.

During his time at the university, much of his work was geared at nutrition and tackling obesity, which also led to him becoming secretary of the Obesity Association - now known as the Association for the Study of Obesity.

In 1982, Dr Howard and his son Jon founded the Howard Foundation, a charitable trust which provides funding for research into the fields of obesity, nutrition and key areas of health.

Alan Howard, at a Cambridge Diet convention. Picture: Howard FoundationAlan Howard, at a Cambridge Diet convention. Picture: Howard Foundation

Two years later, alongside his younger brother Roger, he formed the Cambridge Manufacturing Company to market to revolutionary diet - a business which was sold in 2005 but still exists today.

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His daughter, Julie Lambert who is a trustee of the Howard Foundation says “My father forged for himself a life full of determination and energy, taking on setbacks and seizing unexpected opportunities, a life full of adventures. His hard-working ethos set an example to us as children, that we would strive to do our best in our studies and whatever we did in life.”

His long career in the field saw him receive an abundance of awards and accolades, including an honorary fellowship awarded to him by Downing College in March 1987.

In 2009, he was awarded the Chancellors 88th Anniversary Medal for outstanding philanthropy, which was given to him by the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace.

His legacy at the college of Cambridge has not gone unrecognised, with a number of parts of its campus named after him - Howard Lodge, Howard Building and the Howard Theatre - which all sit in part of the site known as Howard Court.

His foundation funded research at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland and the development of nutritional supplements designed to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

His son, Jon Howard, said: “When the Cambridge Diet achieved great commercial success around the world, he was determined that any profits from sales of the diet would go to causes that had played a significant part in his own life and these were Downing College and scientific research.

“He wanted to give financial stability to scientists whose work he supported and believed in. He believed the best in everyone and everything and we will all miss him.”

Away from his professional work, in his early years he was a keen chess player, representing the Norwich and Norfolk Club and, in 1945, won the Junior Championship Cup at the age of 17.

He also counted photography, ballroom dancing and cycling among his hobbies and in 1946 cycled from Norwich to Venice.

He died on June 24, following a long fight with cancer. His death comes eight years after his brother’s, who died of prostate cancer in September 2012 at the age of 74.

His funeral is due to be held on Thursday, July 16 and 1pm and, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be broadcast via video link on the Howard Foundation website.


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