LOS ANGELES (AP) – Dr. Roy Walford, a UCLA medical school professor who studied the link between a low-calorie diet and longevity and a participant in Biosphere 2, has died. He was 79.

Walford died Tuesday from respiratory failure and complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease, said UCLA spokeswoman Elaine Schmidt. His research centered around experiments in which a low-calorie diet had been found to increase longevity in laboratory mice.

He applied the theory to his own life, ingesting only 1,600 calories a day – about a third of what a man of similar size usually eats, according to a 2000 article in Discover magazine.

He also tried out the low-calorie diet on Columbia University’ Biosphere 2 research facility crew in the early 1990s. Walford was among eight people sealed for two years in the closed ecological system near Tucson, Ariz.

The plan for the biosphere was to grow and process enough food to survive, but when supplies ran low, Walford led the first human experiment into the findings he’d developed studying mice on low-calorie diets.

Walford wrote several books on aging and longevity, and also wrote poems and short stories that were published in Chicago Review and Evergreen Review, according to his online biography.

He also gained notoriety in 1949 when he and a friend parlayed $100 into $14,500 by tracking patterns on the roulette wheel in a Reno, Nev., casino. Their exploits were reported at the time in Life magazine.

AP-ES-05-01-04 0550EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.