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Thomas Ernest Oppe

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 07 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:335
  1. Alan Craft

    Thomas Ernest Oppe (“Tom”), who died on 25 June, was a pioneer in the development of health services for children and in particular the nutrition of babies.

    In the first half of the 20th century the vast majority of babies were breast fed and the few who could not be nourished in this way were given cows’ milk which had been minimally modified to remove some of the high concentrations of protein. After the second world war this all changed and the majority of babies were bottle fed and were weaned on to solid foods at a younger and younger age. This led to increasing numbers of babies being diagnosed with coeliac disease at an early age with consequent serious nutritional problems. There were also many babies being admitted to hospital with high concentrations of sodium in the blood and low concentrations of calcium, causing convulsions. Tom did pioneering work to help understand what was the best form of nutrition for children and chaired the Department of Health and Social Security’s working party which produced a series of reports, including in 1974 Present Day Practice in Infant Feeding. It recommended that breast feeding was the preferred method of feeding even in a socially developed country, that infant formulas, or baby milks as they were then called, should contain substantially less protein, sodium, and other minerals than was …

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