Feature Archive

How to Live to Be 120

Diet may be the key.

WebMD Feature

Aug. 28, 2000 -- Roy Walford, MD, professor emeritus of pathology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), is preparing to eat lunch, and you can hardly blame me for scrutinizing his plate.

This is, after all, the man who has long claimed that calorie restriction with optimal nutrition (what he calls the CRON diet) can help people live for 120 years -- possibly even longer. This is also the man who, in an era of rapidly increasing obesity, has made the radical suggestion that Americans maintain a weight 10% to 25% below their "set points" (the weight the body naturally gravitates to). So who wouldn't want to see if the man practices what he preaches?

Actually, Walford's lunch surprises me a little. On his plate, prepared by one of the two office assistants at his Venice Beach, Calif., home, is a meal not mentioned in his new book, Beyond the 120-Year Diet, an update of his 1986 book, The 120-Year Diet. It consists of a small slice of gourmet pizza topped with vegetables, grilled squash, and a fistful of penne pasta with tomato sauce. Walford assures me this is not his usual midday repast: "I ate out last night and there were leftovers, so I brought them home." But the man is not the ascetic one might assume him to be. In fact, a lot of assumptions about Walford are off the mark.