Holford has a hierachy of mental health, with autism right at the bottom

Holford’s hierachy of mental health/disease

Yes, really – see above picture*. It’s impressive that Holford can get things wrong on so many levels.

Firstly, the idea of a hierarchy is itself rather unhelpful and old-fashioned (is depression ‘better’ than ADHD, for example?) However, even if you were to draw up a hierarchy, what Holford has come up with is really rather odd.

A first thing to note is that different ‘diseases’ vary in how much they impact on a person’s life. Depression can kill, or can be relatively mild. Autism is a spectrum – and can thus cause relatively minor and benign ‘symptoms’. As mental health problems go, it seems peculiar to put ADHD as ‘worse’ than depression and only slightly ‘better’ than schizophrenia, but I’m not even going to try to guess why Holford believes this to be the case.

Secondly, I’m not at all sure how the arrows showing one’s health/adaptive capacity leaking out of the cylinder relate to the conditions listed. For example, drugs and personal trauma can both impact on one’s health in negative ways – but I don’t think anyone believes that they cause autism? Do they?

This is one of those times when I’m really not sure if I’m missing something. Is Holford really arguing for a hierarchy of mental health and disease? And is he making such peculiar suggestions re. what factors are involved? Or have I completely missed the point?

* Taken from p201 of 2007 Piatkus edition of New Optimum Nutrition for the mind. Graphics somewhat revised, for copyright reasons – but, to the best of our ability, the meaning is as in the book.



Filed under patrick holford

26 responses to “Holford has a hierachy of mental health, with autism right at the bottom

  1. anandamide

    That has to be one of the most tragically hilarious diagrams I’ve ever seen; it’s like a graphic from Brass Eye.

  2. James

    You cannot tell on the hierarchy with which conditions the (alleged) causes are supposed to be linked. There appears to be a line down the middle separating ‘life’ and ‘inheritance’. Presumably this means that Patrick has worked out that mood swings, depression and schizophrenia have genetic roots and that autism, ADHD and learning difficulties have environmental causes. That or it is a meaningless, arbitrary dotted line drawn down the middle of a meaningless, arbitrary grouping of words and arrows. I’m not even sure if the arrows are the right way round – do drugs cause autism or does autism cause drugs? Or is the idea to get some scary buzzwords, whack them into a sciency looking diagram and flog some pills?

  3. Hm, thanks anandamide. Now all that’s needed is for the diagram to take into account the damaging effects of Cake.

  4. We actually had a discussion about this, James. Apparently, the horizontal half-lines were to indicate the curve of the vessel. As for the rest, who knows?

    It does seem like an odd interpretation of the concept of allostasis in some ways but less well rounded.

    Discussing this material should not necessitate the use of a secret decoder ring.

  5. Nice, now my life makes sense.

    How is a ‘mind frame’ inherited, separately from genes and not through life/environment?

  6. superburger

    hmmm, so it appears the sole cause of autism is drugs.

    the whole ‘heatlh / disease’ bucket diagram reminds me just a little bit of the ‘life line’ scenes in donnie darko.

  7. LeeT

    Why is autism at the bottom? Many people on the autism spectrum are extremely intelligent. Those with Asperger’s are often very diligent and with a close eye for detail. Exactly the kind of people you would want examining speculative scientific claims …

    Recently I participated as a volunteer in some research being done at a leading university (no not Bedford) on autism. Those investigating the causes think it may have something to do with brain structure. However, as yet no one actually knows. I asked one of the researchers about claims that nutrition could help. She said that occasionally parents would tell her taking out dairy or gluten products would help. However, most of the time dietary changes did little to help the child concerned.

  8. We have no idea, LeeT. Like you, we were puzzled because the spectrum is so diverse.

    The research sounds interesting; so little is known and so many theories abound.

  9. He produces stuff like that, and people still buy his books, and he’s just been awarded a university chair?!
    I can see where you get the drive to keep this site going.

  10. Thanks – it is somewhat upsetting. Especially when you see that Food for the Brain (a charity Holford is CEO of) lists a number of very respectable affiliated organisations – from Mind to the National Association of Head Teachers. Do they know about this stuff?

  11. LeeT

    The wording on the “who are we” section of the “Food for the Brain” website states “WE [i.e “Food for the Brain” emphasis in capitals] are affiliated with a number of organisations representing relevant stakeholders”

    The way I would I would interpret the wording is that “Food for the Brain” has joined Mind and NAHT as a corporate member/supporter. If Mind had joined THEM it would presumably read something like, “The following organisations have signed up and offered their support to our campaign.”

    A little confusing. Perhaps copies of the ASA adjudications could be sent to the relevant organisations asking them if they could clarify both their support for or level of involvement within “Food for the Brain”.

  12. hm, thanks. It is confusing. Food for the Brain also say that “If you would like to affiliate your organisation with Food for the Brain, please email us”. I’m e-mailing Mind, at any rate, to clarify their position on this…

  13. LeeT

    I’ll contact the NAHT

  14. thanks – sounds great. Let us know what their response is.

  15. LeeT

    Whilst we wait for the NAHT to come back to us I have been doing some research on Patrick Holford and the NAHT. It seems the chair of the board of the trustees of “Food for the Brain” is Dr Rona Tutt who is a former president of the NAHT. Mr Holford was invited to address a conference on special needs education in Oxford on 11/12 Nov 2005 (http://www.naht.org.uk/themes/campaign-item-view.asp?ID=1455) and in September 2006 he spoke at another conference on “Developing the Leader and the learner” (http://www.teachingnet.gov.uk/Eventscalendar/index.cfm?mode=eventview&id=1139&day=30&month=9&year=2006&startmonth=9). So there does seem to be an open door.

    If you look at “The Food for the Brain” website it at first seems inoffensive enough. Who could disagree with trying to get children off horrible sugary foods and on to those that help them build up their brain and concentration? However, if you look a bit closer things seem rather strange. Under the heading “books for your child’s mind” it invites the reader to “click here” and hey presto you end up not on Amazon, but Patrick Holford’s own website. Click on Parents & Schools/Supplements for Smart Kids you will come to that question every parent should ask: “Should I give my child supplements?” The answer is, … well guess! “We chose Higher Nature’s Dinochews for our school trials.” Would that be the same “Higher Nature” that sell the Advanced Optimum Nutrition Formula formulated by none other than Patrick Holford: (http://www.highernature.co.uk/ShowProductFamily.aspx?ProductFamilyID=211) Now, if I were leading a national trial to improve the health of the nation’s school children I think I would want to make sure nobody could say there was any possible conflict with my business interests.

    Organisations like “Mind” and the “NAHT” can be forgiven for being interested in projects such as “Food the Brain” given the promises made for what can be achieved, but it does seem to be awfully focused on one person.

    Perhaps the British Dietetic Association should insist on being involved with initiatives in the public sector i.e schools or hospitals where the food/supplement trials are being done?

  16. I would not be too surprised if the links were soon expanded to encompass the new book by Dr Alex Richardson and her website: They Are What You Feed Them and Food and Behaviour Research.

    I do object to the parts of FFTB that recommend various tests of dubious value should be administered to the children; e.g., homocysteine levels, IgG food intolerance tests, hair minerals etc.

  17. Plebian

    Do we have an update on this? I was really interested in finding out what Mind and NAHT had to say for themselves and/or the ASA.


  18. Hi. Waiting to hear back from Mind; not sure if Lee has heard back from NAHT?

  19. LeeT

    No, I have not heard anything.

    I should imagine a Patrick Holford intern rang up the various organisations to tell them about groundbreaking research in to mental health and nutrition before offering them the chance to be put on the mailing list. They were hardly going to say: “No thank you, we have quite enough junk mail already.”

    It is also more likely that supporters of Mr H are already active within, for example, MIND. They do seem to have a particular interest in mental health issues.

  20. Plebian

    So they are functionally ignoring us at best. Good to know that a well respected charity cannot reply to genuine inquiry, particularly as I have supported them in the past. What a fool I have been.
    I must of course use this personal experience to tar all charities with the same diabolical brush, as per the ‘methodology’ of our subject.

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