Holford denies AIDS/vitamin C claims, again, and accuses Prof Colquhoun of having invented them

In a letter on the Guardian website, Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University responds to Prof Colquhoun’s article on Endarkenment. Holford states that an example nutritional claim “given [in Colquhoun’s article], apparently made by me, that ‘vitamin C is better than conventional drugs to treat AIDS’ is [Colquhoun’s] own invention”. Strangely, though, in this very letter Holford links to some of his writing on AIDS where he claims that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C”. I wonder if anyone on the Guardian staff followed this link, to check the accuracy of Holford’s claims prior to publishing the letter?

Now, I’m neither a ‘qualified’ nutritional therapist nor a lawyer – so I will leave readers to judge whether this claim about AZT constitutes a claim from Holford that vitamin C is better than conventional drugs to treat AIDS, and whether it was appropriate for the Guardian to publish Holford’s claim about Colquhoun’s “invention” unchallenged. I will also leave it to Teesside to decide whether it is appropriate for their new Professor of Nutrition and Mental Health to claim that Prof Colquhoun has ‘invented’ parts of his work.



Filed under AIDS, David Colquhoun, patrick holford, The Guardian, vitamin c

30 responses to “Holford denies AIDS/vitamin C claims, again, and accuses Prof Colquhoun of having invented them

  1. jdc

    “I will leave readers to judge…”

    I’ve made my mind up. And written to the Guardian to let them know my views on this part of the article.

  2. LeeT

    How much vitamin C does Patrick Holford think people should take? Presumably he thinks mega-doses would help the immune system? Am I right in saying no trials have been done on humans? Recent research cast doubt over claims vitamin C could prevent the common cold. So I am bit skeptical that it could be the solution for a condition like AIDS …

  3. David Colquhoun looks into this: Holford refers to an in vitro study which uses vitamin C concentrations “something like 10 times greater than can be achieved in man even with very high oral doses”.

    There has been some research, and as I read it the data is rather mixed. From what I can see, it’s possible that vitamin C supplementation may either bring some benefit or cause some harm (when used as a complement to conventional AIDS treatment). Not a miracle cure, and something for patients to discuss with their doctor or dietitian…

  4. LeeT

    Here is an interesting article from a South African new website written during Patrick Holford’s visit to the country back in February:


  5. So Professor David Colquhoun emerges again with his vitriolic remarks on nutrition. I haven’t seen all his comments re nutrtion, but he is the man that labels homeopathy as “crackpot medicine”.He , with other “Professors” has made it their aim to close all homeopathic hospitals to NHS patients by writing to the Primary Care Trusts telling them to withold funding as homeopathy “has no scientific proof that it works” Now ,it appears, that he is attacking Patrick Holford, who is probably the best nutritionist in this country. His training course is probably the best in the country, and the nutritionists he produces are far superior in their knowledge than any “dietitian”. One only has to look at the food the dietitians supervise in NHS hospitals to see the quality of their training.
    Thre medical profession has long ignored the positive effect of proper nutrition….I believe it is not even in their curriculum in any depth. So get off his back, and listen to what he says.
    Shopenhauser (philosopher) states:-
    All truth goes through three stages First it is ridiculed…then it is violently opposed…finally it is accepted as self evident. I rest my case.

  6. curious- I was never expecting for this project to run for so long. I’ve frankly been amazed by the number of mistakes we’ve found in Holford’s work: enough to sustain months on end of analysis. So no, I wouldn’t agree that Holford is the best nutritionist in the UK (or even in Teesside).

    Thanks for the Schopenhauer quote. Of course, some ideas are ridiculed because they are silly, and then the ideas die (something that Schopenhauer was well aware of).

    At any rate, I’m not sure how Schopenhauer would have felt at being utilised as an advocate for ‘optimum nutrition’: I suspect that he would have found the whole idea rather dull. Remember, this is the philosopher who argued that:

    Life presents itself chiefly as a task—the task, I mean, of subsisting at all, gagner sa vie. If this is accomplished, life is a burden, and then there comes the second task of doing something with that which has been won—of warding off boredom

  7. Catherine Collins RD

    Curious says, in true ‘Carlsberg style’, that

    “His training course is probably the best in the country, and the nutritionists he produces are far superior in their knowledge than any “dietitian”

    What a ridiculous comment.

    On mere qualifications alone any ‘RD’ possesses a BSc (Hons) science based degree and a legally recognised professional status the moment they graduate

    Mr Holfords course entitles you to no such level of qualification, providing a ‘DipION’ that counts as a token ‘foundation status qualification’ that can be converted to a ‘proper nutrition degree’ with the minimum of a years further study at only one of the multitude of universities in the country that offers nutrition as a graduate subject. You can confirm this – if you are truly Curious – from the ION prospectus available on the ION website.

    Your knowledge of dietetics vs nutrition appears pitiful. I assume from your comments that you have absolutely no knowledge of what a dietitian does, how we work, or what we do.

    I’d like to challenge your assertion that my knowledge is lesson any level you like, Curious, but something tells me that your lack of insight would merely create a “futile cycle” of comments..

    laughable, really

  8. LeeT

    It is interesting, as I have mentioned in other discussions, that very few nutritional therapists indeed choose to convert their qualification in to a BSc honours degree. Check out the websites of practioners available from the ION website. One would have hoped that further study would be a requirement of continuing professional development.

  9. anandamide

    Is there a Godwin’s law equivalent for that Schopenhauer quote?

  10. Ah, the Schopenhauer gambit, one of my favourites. Often seen on the paranoid fringes of Slashdot, of which there are plenty.

  11. Hi Catherine Collins RD
    Well ,what a tirade against nutritionists!
    I have looked at the BDA website under Food Facts, and how interesting it was.
    Sugar…quote “the only problem directly linked to sugar is tooth decay” I presume you have not seen a child go manic after ingesting sugar. What about the dangers of aspartime in fizzy drinks that the children absolutely adore? No mention of that.
    Probiotics with antibiotics. Well done, it’s on your web site, but very few doctors prescribe that combination. If they did, then there would not be so much stomachproblems with antibiotics.
    Diet and behaviour of children….quote “Omega 3 fatty acids for children to improve their concentration. Results are inconclusive.” Aug 2007. What reports do you get? There have many trials to prove the opposite.
    Cholesterol..”products containing stanols and sterols are not a substitute for lipid lowering medications”..You recomend statins with side effects which produce muscular and neurological problems. Beta sitosterol produces the same effect without side effects. You might be interested to know that 40 years ago, lecithin, a natural product, was recommended for reducing cholesterol. It is still available today, so why are you not recommending it?
    These reports were written by dietitians with BSc (Hons)degrees.
    You may find my remarks laughable, but the “highly qualified” members of your profession still have a lot to learn.

  12. superburger


    “What reports do you get? There have many trials to prove the opposite.”

    What good quality trials in a general population of children show that omega-3s improve concentration? be interesting to see where they have been published….

  13. LeeT

    Given that it does not seem likely that Schopenhauer would have endorsed Patrick Holford perhaps another 19th century German philopher will oblige. Nietzsche wrote about the idea of the superman or overman: “All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment…” (See http://personal.ecu.edu/mccartyr/great/projects/Knowles.htm)

    If you think the superman is a myth go to this GMTV webchat which took place earlier in the year:
    Viewer: “I’d be fascinated to know whether you suffer from any health problems and do you ever have to go to the doctor?!”
    Dr [sic ????]Patrick Holford : I see a doctor about once a decade! I have only one health issue – sinus problems. When I was a kid I was undiagnosed milk allergic and ended up having adenoids, tonsils out plus ops on my sinuses! Bad idea! Other than that I’m is [sic] 100% health with more energy and mental clarity now than before! http://www.gm.tv/index.cfm?articleid=20109

    The choice is yours everyone. Do you want to be a superman in a 100% health or …. a laughing stock? Incidentally, does GMTV have the power to award doctorates?!!

  14. Catherine Collins RD

    you confirm my presumptions. Unfortunately, we RD’s use evidence based medicine on which to base our recommendations – not hypothetical musings, whimsical anecdote, or tomes written by enthusiastic nutrition amateurs who claim “to have studied nutrition for 30 years but still have the ability to completely misread a clinical paper for the purpose of self promotion/ supplement sales/ fooling the gullible”.

    I make no apologies for my profession, its professional organisation (the BDA at http://www.bda.uk.com) or the public fact sheets that give the individual an objective, impartial and accurate interpretation of the current evidence supporting the medical/ nutrition research.

    Your comments are amusing for those with any clinical knowledge of nutrition. You are obviously sensitized to the alternative aspects of nutrition, for which RDs give short shrift, given that virtually all the ‘nutritional concerns’ raised are completely irrelevant in clinical nutrition.

  15. LeeT

    Curious – you are quoting out of context again. The factsheet on the BDA website answers the question, “Is sugar bad for you?” with “No, it’s the amount and how frequently you eat sugar that matters.” It goes on to say, “sugary foods can only make us gain weight if overall we eat more calories than we burn.” That’s why the Food Standards Agency food wheel advises us not to eat much in the way of sugary foods!

  16. Pingback: ‘Dr’ Holford, good blogs and a puzzling Skeptic’s Circle « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  17. so, re. sugar, there’s a contrast between the BDA – which knows what sugar is, and gives relatively clear advice on the need to limit sugar consumption – and a nutritionist who gives much less clear advice and appears to be confused re. what can be classified as ‘sugar’.

    I know which is more convincing to me.

  18. The RD’s give short shrift to alternative aspects of nutrition, we only used evidence based medicine,typical narrow-minded remarks from the allopathic lobby. Incidentally, you haven’t contradicted my observations.
    Have you seen the report brom the Mental Health Foundation , “Feeding Minds”. Probably not. I suggest that you obtain a copy, you might learn something!
    I am now justified in confirming none of you has an open mind, and take great delight in putting your faith in allopathic, “evidence” based medicine. Are you aware that iatrogenic illness (caused by the side effects of “evidence” based drugs) is now the 4th leading cause of death?
    This is my last comment. Goodbye, and good luck in your closed world of medicine.

  19. Your dialogue with my husband would be laughable, if the end result were not so serious. As, a cook for some 50 years and considered a good one I think I can take issue with your opinions.

    You only have to observe the type of food served in NHS hospitals presumably based on a dietiticians’ advice to see how lacking in nutrition it is. True it has to be massed produced and it is difficult to provide food of the same quality as that prepared on a smaller scale, which has to be, by definition of a higher standard. In addition, it is brought around in trolleys which keep the food warm, killing more of the nutritional content.

    You do not have to have a degree to know that the more time vegetables are cooked and then kept warm kills the Vitamin C content.

    To base your concept on evidence base medicine will get you nowhere. This type of research has been oft times proved to be flawed – for instance can you confirm that hydogenated fats have been removed from all hospital food?

    I have read comments before from dietiticians and would politely suggest that you should go all back to basics – mass produced food with little or no vitamin/mineral content is not going to improve anyone’s health, and especially those who are confined in hospital.

    Perhaps, if you had qualifications from a reputable school where cooking is taught your arguments might be valid. I am wondering if any of you have ever been on a course conducted by any of the wellknown chefs?

    To be so doctrinaire about your dietitcian qualifications and decry those who think otherwise, displays a degree of ignorance and arrogance which I find appalling.

    I am sure you will accept, that food that has been grown organically without pesticides has to be more beneficial. Obviously it is going to be more expensive and as we all know, the NHS is not going to expend money in this direction. If the Management of most NHS hospitals cannot keep their wards clean for the total benefit of the patients, then you would hardly expect them to care about the quality of the food.

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