McCarrison Society

Health Through Nutrition, A Birthright



Dr Hugh Carey Trowell OBE MD FRCP

(1904 -1989)

A colleague said of Trowell:

“It was Dr Hugh Trowell who first used the term ‘Western Disease’ to refer to a pattern of illnesses which he saw essentially as man-made, and caused above all by modem technology, creating a food supply in Britain and other Western countries heavy in fats and sugars, poor in fibre and many nutrients that are a natural part of whole food.

Dr Trowell worked in East Africa for over thirty years, and his experience taught him that many of the most common causes of death and disability in Western countries are rare or even non-existent among country people in Africa, many of whom live to a ripe, healthy old age. Working in partnership with Dr Denis Burkitt, Dr Trowell identified a pattern of ‘Western Diseases’. The previous term was ‘diseases of civilisation’; but as he said ‘it proved obnoxious to teach African and Asian medical students that their communities had a low incidence of these diseases because they were uncivilised’..

This work alone is enough to establish Dr Trowell as a great nutritional scientist and a great thinker, at a time when almost all research workers know more and more about less and less. Another great achievement, is his original definition of ‘dietary fibre’, established in the first of three monumental books co-edited with Dr Burkitt, ‘Refined Carbohydrate Foods and Disease: Some Implications of Dietary Fibre’, published in 1975.

In 1989 Dr Trowell died just before he celebrated his 85th birthday. He was justly proud of his pioneering work in the identification of kwashiorkor, now recognised as the most important deficiency disease in the world. In the 1980s he published original work on the cause and cure of adult-onset diabetes. He also identified early sexual maturity in Western children as unnatural. He believed there is a connection between premature sexual maturity, and diabetes, cancers and heart disease in later life. For good health, slow growth is best.

The McCarrison Society is the British professional association committed to the promotion of good health and prevention of disease by sound nutrition. The Society is proud to publish this short account of the life and work of Dr Trowell by his colleague and friend, Dr Denis Burkitt.”

Geoffrey Cannon

Dr Hugh Trowell OBE MD FRCP

McCarrison society booklet

A time line of his career can be found on Mindus (Link)

His New York TImes obituary (Link)

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