Related topics

Food Expert Elsie Widdowson Dies

June 26, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Nutritionist Elsie Widdowson, whose research guided the British government’s program of food rationing during World War II, has died at age 93.

Widdowson died in Cambridge on June 14, The Guardian reported. Cause of death was not given.

A quiet, unassuming woman, Widdowson was regarded as an expert in food analysis, nutrition and the effects on development of diet before and after birth.

Her work included advising on diet for the emaciated survivors of Nazi death camps at the end of World War II, and investigating the effects of different kinds of bread on the recovery rates of malnourished children across Germany.

Born in London, she studied chemistry at Imperial College, which later awarded her a doctorate. She won a second doctorate at the Courtauld Institute of Biochemistry.

In the 1930s, she teamed with one of her tutors, Professor R.A. McCance, to show that nutritional tables then in worldwide use were substantially wrong.

In a collaboration that lasted 60 years, the two scientists changed the way the world assessed nutritional values and how it investigated dietary deficiencies.

Widdowson and McCance studied every aspect of nutrition, notably separating for the first time the effects on humans of deficiencies in salt and water, research that proved important in the Allies’ World War II campaign in North Africa.

They demonstrated that the nutritional content of foods before and after cooking. Their comprehensive food composition tables became the world standard and guided government thinking on wartime rationing.

In 1940, the two scientists began pioneering research into the chemical composition of the human body. Widdowson studied the relationship between diet and infant growth, and the effects of wartime food rationing.

Using themselves and colleagues as guinea pigs, Widdowson and McCancer experimented with a minimal diet, showing that humans can live on very little yet remain fit.

Widdowson never married. Funeral details were not given.

Update hourly