Private Eye: may contain nuts

‘Ratbiter’ has an excellent piece in Private Eye. In an article headlined May contain nuts, they ask Who is Patrick Holford, the British media’s favourite ‘nutritionist’? (issue 1197, p. 29).

The article begins with a critical look at some of Holford’s statements on vitamin C and HIV/AIDS, and also discusses one of Holford’s disagreement with David Colquhoun.

Ratbiter then points out that

Holford is derided by science bloggers, most notably the authors of the punchy HolfordWatch site, but foreigners trawling the British press cuttings would find him popping up as an expert witness more often than Posh Spice at London Fashion Week.

When the Daily Star decided to help “32DD beauty” Dani Llloyd lose weight, it called in Holford. When the Mail wanted a miracle cure for low education standards, Holford told it that “children who eat good fats, from raw nuts, seeds and oily fish, double their chances of high performance.” Further upmarket, the Guardian foodie Joanna Blythman reported his arguments against putting folic acid supplements in bread as if they were the serious reservations of an acknowledged specialist, while the Independent described him as “one of the world’s leading authorities on new approaches to health and nutrition”.

The article is also critical of Teesside’s decision to grant Holford a visiting professor’s post, and the way that the “University of Bedfordshire endorsed a degree course run by [Holford’s] Institute of Optimum Nutrition”. Having covered a lot of ground, Ratbiter ends the article by asking

As [Holford’s] ideas spread round the world, when will journalists and university vice chancellors finally ask him some hard questions?

Good question.



Filed under AIDS, David Colquhoun, institute for optimum nutrition, patrick holford, University of Teesside, vitamin c

19 responses to “Private Eye: may contain nuts

  1. Acleron

    Holford’s hilarious response to Dr Calquhoun

    [Moderator Edit – Holford’s full response is available here. Thanks for the comment, but for copyright reasons please don’t cut and paste whole articles into your comments]

    First of all this piece is titled “Scientism, not Science”. This is the latest word the woo woos have constructed to try and belittle true scientists.
    He asks for an example of a therapist claiming “changing your diet, and buying lots of expensive supplements will cure almost any disease”. Unfortunately, by accident or design, the Guardian supplies the title of his book at the end of the article. Holford’s knowledge of science or ability to obfuscate issues is shown by his use of the word ‘trial’ associated with Vit C. Experiments ‘in vitro’ are never good reasons to go to trials in humans without a lot more work, including experiments ‘in vivo’ in animals.

    And finally from Holford’s own website
    ‘I say that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C’
    If this is not saying that ‘vitamin C is better than conventional drugs to treat AIDS’ then I can only conclude that Holford is is fluent in and is talking bollicks.

    • E.Cunningham

      As quoted from the movie The Dude Lebowski – ‘That’s like, your opinion.’ Who are you to say that it’s a lie? It’s possible of course, but where is the evidence to back up your opinionated statement? Who are you and what are your motives in trying to spread such distrust? Do you not dream for a world with side-effect-free preventative measures and cures for such awful diseases such as AIDS? Treatment which doesn’t involve enormous drug bills and unpleasant side effects. Unless you have monetary connections to a pharmaceutical company of course. Good luck with your propaganda.

      • The opinions given here are also backed up with evidence, though. Feel free to disagree based on the evidence, but speculation about our monetary connections to pharma companies (we don’t have any, by the way) are just a bit tedious.

  2. I complained to the Guardian about Holford’s ridiculous response, pointing out that Holford’s ‘own invention’ statement was utter bollocks and that Holford’s own page (linked on the Guardian’s online article) showed that he was talking testicles.

  3. yes, that was a depressing response to see on the Guardian site.

  4. Dr Aust

    Jeez, Holford is a mushwit.

    So… despite claiming endlessly that this or that vitamin or cofactor is incredibly important, and being connected with folks who sell such stuff, he also opposes putting folate (a cofactor) into bread…

    Urgh. It just makes my head hurt.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the Alties ape the worst old-style paternalism, “trust me I’m an expert” (while being nothing of the kind)and “no no, not that advice, this advice” (from me at a price) etc. etc. of Private Medicine c. the 1930s, while simultanously inaccurately characterizing modern medicine / dietetics as paternalistic / authoritarian / money-driven. How people buy this stuff I’ll never know.

  5. Mojo

    Well, just think of the impact on the supplements industry if their products are available in the food we eat, such as bread.

    Er, hang on…

  6. Careful Mojo. Next you’ll be coming up with all kinds of dangerous claims – like the peculiar belief that we can get antioxidant vitamins from fresh fruit and veg ;)

  7. LeeT

    Dr Aust

    It is very easy to be taken in by Mr Holford. He offers solutions to the desperate. If your best friend has bulimia Patrick will sort it; your work colleague has a child with autism Patrick will sort it; a relative has alcoholism Patrick will sort it; granny has alzheimer’s etc.

    My own disillusionment with Holfordism came when I realised that the memory boosting pills he had been supplying me with – courtesy of his friends (now ex-friends) at Higher Nature – were totally useless.

    There must be other people with negative testimonials out there ….


  8. draust

    Thanks Lee

    You are right, once one develops a fairly well-tuned Bullshit Detector it is easy to forget that stuff like Patrick’s works primarily by preying on the needy and vulnerable, as well as the plain gullible.

    I used to do evening classes in Spanish some yrs back, and was amazed by how many “medical questions” I would end up fielding in the bar afterwards, despite repeatedly explaining that I was a research scientist and not a medical doctor.

    Anyway, the existence of people who need better info is all the more reason for sites like this and BadScience to keep up the counterattack on all the AltHealth disinformation.

  9. Pingback: Independent article makes me SAD: Holford advises eating tuna or other fish 3 times a week, but what about the mercury? « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  10. Sara

    obviously not a very good research sceintist .
    How can someone who cuts out processed carb, trans fats, sugar, balances blood glucose levels, up essential fat levels, get the digetion working really well to improve absorption and intolerances, improve liver function, balance hormones etc etc etc be gullable! Dont be such a [edited].

  11. LeeT

    Hi Sara,

    Nothing wrong with a bit of sugar and dairy products from time to time. See this recipe as recommended by Patrick Holford’s Institute for Optimum Nutrition:


  12. Sara- you seem to be annoyed with someone and about something. It’s not entirely clear what, though – perhaps you could restate your point(s)?

  13. poppy

    All I can say is well done Sara, at least there is someone unbiased on this site. I am not an expert on this subject (nor are many of you by the look of it), just an ordinary member of the public who has experienced huge improvement in my health thanks to Patrick Holford. His advice is sound and based on good research and makes sense. I now have a good diet, good health and good quality nutritional supplements really help me feel and stay well. I just don’t understand why you have chosen him as someone to attack when there are so many pharmaceutical companies pushing their drugs on us that have so many side effects and are often ineffective.
    As far as I can see Sara is the only person who has been talking any sense and obviously is well trained in nutrition.
    I have never met Patrick Holford but he seems to me to be someone who genuinely cares about peoples health and therefore must be a good person, I just don’t understand your motives on this site.

  14. Re – “at least there is someone unbiased on this site”, I must say I’m not totally sure that someone making a living in the field of nutrition can be said to be ‘unbiased’ (or, at least, to have no competing interests) when discussing nutritional advice.

  15. Pingback: Post #350: “If you think I have been overly critical, I would invite you to notice that they win” « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  16. Martin

    Id sooner take a nutritional approach to healing than an approach dished out by pharmacetical companies.

    Admin edit: may that not vary with the condition and circumstances? Plus, it is surely people’s choice whether or not they purchase OTC products for various self-limiting conditions – anything more complicated should be prescribed by an appropriate healthcare worker after a suitable consultation.

  17. Pingback: About Us « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

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