Lester M. Morrison, a physician whose research into the links between diet and arteriosclerosis predated current concerns by more than four decades, is dead.
His physician and longtime friend, John Romm, said Morrison--who won his first research award when he was 16 and a student in Canada--was 83 when he died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
He had been chief of staff at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, a forerunner of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Romm said, and died of the complications of age.
Born in London, Morrison’s family migrated to Canada when he was a boy. He graduated from McGill University in Montreal and then moved to Philadelphia, where he earned his medical degree from Temple University in 1933.
He practiced in Pennsylvania and taught at Temple. His earliest field of research was in gastroenterology. In the 1940s he began finding evidence that America’s fat-rich diets were fostering heart and artery disease.
His interest emanated from studies that showed that heart disease dropped during wartime when food supplies became critical but increased in peacetime as food became plentiful.
Later that decade, he began speaking at medical conventions where he reported that arteriosclerosis was not caused by a hardening of the arteries, but by a softening, brought about by cholesterol.
He had conducted experiments with rabbits in which he created arteriosclerosis in them by feeding them a fatty diet.
Among his 150 scientific articles and books are “The Low Fat Way to Health and Longer Life” and “Dr. Morrison’s Heart-Saver Program.” His studies helped form the underpinnings of today’s rigid low-fat nutrition programs.
He also pioneered the use of lechitin-choline to reduce cholesterol levels while conducting sometimes controversial studies into various other drugs and medicines to stave off heart attacks, among them chondroitin sulfate, Romm said.
Besides Temple, Morrison taught at the UCLA, USC and Loma Linda University schools of medicine and was an investigator for the U.S. Department of Public Health, the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.
He was an accomplished violinist and historian who was concertmaster for Los Angeles’ Doctors Symphony. In 1965, he published “Trial and Triumph,” a novel based on the writings of Moses Maimonides, a Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages.
Survivors include his wife, Rita, a niece and four nephews.
A funeral service will be held today at noon at Hillside Memorial Park.