In the early 1950s, Edward H. Ahrens, Jr. (1915-2000) wanted to study the relationship between fat in the diet and atherosclerosis, the fatty deposits of cholesterol inside arteries that lead to heart attacks and strokes. He started clinical studies in which patients in the Rockefeller Hospital were fed standardized diets. But eating the same food every day became boring for patients who participated in weeks-long studies, and it was difficult to precisely control the balance of nutrients in the food. Then a pediatrician colleague advised Ahrens, "Feed them like babies. Feed them formula." Taking that lead, with colleague Vincent P. Dole, Ahrens created the first formula diets, an approach that soon became standard for studying not only heart disease, but also obesity, and many other aspects of metabolism.

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