Tag Archives: Dr Margaret Ashwell

Remembering Professor Philip James

On October 30th, I was privileged to attend the funeral of Phil James who was a previous long-term Vice President of the Caroline Walker Trust (CWT) and the recipient of the CWT Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.  The Caroline Walker Trust sent a gift of an olive tree to Jean James in Phil’s memory.

Eulogies at the funeral were given by Phil’s sister, his daughter, Clare and Professor Paul Trayhurn. The post funeral gathering was held at the Canal Museum in North London, very close to Phil’s house.

Phil and his wife Jean got together when they were 18 and 19 – as a result of having attended the same Yorkshire boarding school and meeting up by chance with a group of other ex-pupils at a coffee bar which still exists!  They married prior to Phil’s final year studying medicine at UCL – causing a good deal of angst to Phil’s widowed mother! Given the diagnosis of bronchiectasis when he was still a student and the grim prognosis that he might not survive beyond his 40s, to have reached 85 was a miracle for Phil. He was amazing the way he coped with it for all those years.

Phil’s long career spanned the Tropical Metabolism Unit in Jamaica, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre in Cambridge and the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen.  If you want to know more about Phil’s career, his joy at being a campaigner and a dissenter, here is the autobiography that he wrote for me in the 2021 collation of Nutrition Society Presidents and Honorary Fellows.

On a personal note, I will always be grateful to Phil because, in 1980, he enabled my move within the Medical Research Council, from the Clinical Research Centre in Harrow to the Dunn in Cambridge.

The olive tree will be planted in the garden of their son, Mark, in Liverpool.  Phil’s ashes will be buried beneath it.

Dr Margaret Ashwell OBE
Vice President
The Caroline Walker Trust

CWT announces new Vice President

The Caroline Walker Trust (CWT) is excited to announce that the expert nutrition scientist Dr Margaret Ashwell OBE, PhD, DSc, EdD, Hon FNS, FAfN, RNutr(Public Health) has become one of its new Vice Presidents. Dr Ashwell’s appointment is an honorary role, involving ceremonial duties, providing an important link between the CWT governing board and its stakeholders, including volunteers, universities, partner organisations, professional bodies and relevant charities.

Dr Margaret Ashwell’s nutrition career spanning nearly fifty years has included a variety of roles: research scientist with the Medical Research Council, Principal of the Good Housekeeping Institute, Science Director of the British Nutrition Foundation and, for more than 28 years, Director of Ashwell Associates, a nutrition science consultancy. Margaret served on the UK Government’s Food Advisory Committee for 9 years and was rewarded with the OBE. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Nutrition Society and the Association for Nutrition (AfN), has received Honorary Doctorates in Science and Education and is the Immediate Past President of AfN.  In 2019,  Margaret became a founding Trustee of the Academy of Nutrition Sciences.

Commenting on her appointment, Dr Ashwell said, “I am thrilled to become a Vice President of the Caroline Walker Trust, as I knew Caroline personally having worked together in the early 1980s.  Since the inception of the Trust, I have followed its growth and achievements with great interest and was greatly honoured to receive the Caroline Walker Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2023. I look forward to supporting the Trust in this new role and continuing to improve public health within the UK.”

Kathy Lewis, Acting Chair of the CWT, added, “On behalf of The Caroline Walker Trust, we are delighted that Dr. Ashwell will join us as Vice President.  As one of the most experienced nutritionists in the country, her warmth, passion, experience and knowledge will be great assets to this charity and not only support our stakeholder interaction but importantly help us to fulfil our mission of improving public health through good food.“

For further information, contact Kathy Lewis at [email protected] or 07961 317 621


Notes to the Editor

The Caroline Walker Trust

The Caroline Walker Trust was founded in 1989 after the death of the distinguished nutritionist, writer and campaigner Caroline Walker.  Established to continue her work and in her spirit, the CWT works tirelessly to promote the improvement of public health through good food. The work of CWT is particularly targeted towards vulnerable groups and people who need special help.

Further details about Dr Margaret Ashwell’s career

Dr Ashwell’s original early research contribution to improving public health was showing that the waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) is an indicator of early health risk. This proxy measure (for the more harmful central adiposity) was recommended twenty five years later in the 2022 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. Margaret continually advocated for the boundary value of WHtR=0.5 which translates into the simple public health message of ‘Keep your waist to less than half your height’. In practical terms, this simplifies primary health screening for men, women and children in all ethnic groups because the measurement only requires a piece of string.

Editing the biography of the nutrition pioneers, McCance and Widdowson, published in 1993, is the project which has given Margaret most satisfaction. She has continued to undertake many fascinating  projects about Elsie Widdowson, including the unveiling of her blue plaque in 2021.