I thought that – when the Scotsman published Blissett’s dire article on Holford a while after the Standard – it was just letting its standards slip, and running a poor-quality cast-off from the London media. However, having taken a closer look, the Scotsman have form on this type of ‘science’ journalism. Last year, they gave Holford the chance to share his insight into how “autistic children are almost all allergic either to wheat, milk or both”. This is an interesting claim – and very likely inaccurate.
IgE-mediated allergies are pretty rare, symptoms generally come on pretty quickly, and we do have reliable tests for such allergies. If ‘almost all’ autistic children were allergic to such staple foods as wheat and milk, one would expect that evidence-based medicine would have noticed by now. Oddly, they haven’t. The available evidence just does not support this claim.
It may be that Holford is talking about something else (e.g. he might believe that almost all autistic children are gluten and casein intolerant). However, this isn’t clear from the Scotsman piece (and even this weaker claim is not supported by reliable evidence). The article also does not make clear that – if cutting milk and wheat out of their child’s diet – parents should do this under the supervision of a suitably qualified medical professional such as a dietitian.
The Scotsman therefore allowed Holford to – incorrectly – give the impression that “autistic children are almost all allergic either to wheat, milk or both”. They also failed to warn parents of the need to see a qualified medical professional if removing staple foods from their child’s diet. This is horribly bad science, and horribly bad journalism. Surely the Scotsman’s readers deserve better.