Elsie Widdowson was one of the leading and most beloved British nutritionists of the 20th century. She’s best known as half of “McCance and Widdowson,” the authoritative compilation of the nutrient content of British foods first published in 1940. “There is no branch of nutrition science, past or present, that has not been influenced in some way by the results of her pioneering work,” said the British Nutrition Foundation.
With R.A. McCance, her research partner for 60 years, the two experimented on themselves, injecting iron into their bodies to study iron status, and devised a World War II austerity diet of bread, potatoes and cabbage. They demonstrated that it was sufficient to sustain the working population by embarking on a strenuous mountain climb after following the diet for three months. They led the first mandated fortification of foods with vitamins and minerals. During her long career, Widdowson studied the effect of diet on infant growth and the effect of salt deficiency.