Patrick Holford and The Whole Health Dowsing Kit

Holford and the Whole Health Dowsing Kit complete with pendulum and vitamin samples
Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University and Head of Science and Education at Biocare frequently upbraids professionals and researchers for what he perceives as their lack of up-to-date research.

You may recall that we previously mentioned Holford’s advocacy of health dowsing as a way of diagnosing nutritional needs and said that we had seen a diagram of the kit that was for sale. Well, we promised a copy of the diagram: it has taken a while but we hope that you enjoy it.

For those of you with the stamina to work through the entire page of nonsense on this topic, we have provided a pdf of Patrick Holford and the Whole Health Dowsing Kit for your entertainment and so that you can see the diagram in context. To be fair, you will also learn to ask ‘clear’ and ‘unbiased’ questions when using the pendulum; to wit, “don’t ask if you have cancer!”. To recap the wonderful loopiness:

Although it is hard to believe, [health dowsing] is an accurate and simple method of diagnosis that uses intuition rather than logical thinking to determine people’s nutritional needs. (Holford 1983, 132).

“[H]ard to believe” doesn’t begin to cover our astonishment. Unsurprisingly, health dowsing is not an effective diagnostic technique: there is no plausible mechanism by which it might work, and no good evidence that it does, whether for allergies or the assessment of putative dietary deficiencies.

Given Holford’s insistence* that he has been researching the science of nutrition since his epiphany in the late 70s, it is interesting to see Holford focusing on “intuition rather than logical thinking”. Sadly, given the type of ‘evidence’ that Holford views as “deeply impressive”, it appears that Holford has a long history of advocating a special approach to science and nutrition. Here at Holford Watch, we feel that logical thinking about nutrition can be useful: relying on intuition is inadequate. Advising that people should take dietary advice based on the swing of pendulum – well that is a very special application of the scientific method.

*Holford’s juvenilia are less than interesting to read, unless one is entertained by such stuff, but we include them for several reasons. Holford claims to have been researching nutrition for more than 30 years; it seems that he must count some of this material as part of that ‘research’. He regularly refers to having written “more than 20 books” whether defending a complaint brought by the ASA or in his own biographical notes. It seems that he includes his early works in that list. A substantial number of those books are of a similar quality and length to this book: yet, Holford and others regard this back catalogue as indicative of his self-declared gravitas and standing as a researcher and scientist.

It is particularly interesting that Holford must have been researching and writing this particular book in the gap between graduating in 1979 and beginning to treat ‘mental health patients’ in 1980 (pdf); a time when, as declared on his CV, he was spending time as a student of Drs Hoffer and Pfeiffer. Did he learn about the value of applied kinesiology and health dowsing while ‘studying’ with them?

After the interesting corrections to the Holford CV and profile, we are fascinated by when, where, and with whom Holford gained sufficient clinical knowledge and experience to start working with clients in such an important capacity. Did he advise them to use kinesiology and health dowsing to diagnose nutritional deficiencies?

Holford, P. (1983) The Whole Health Manual, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Thorsons.


Filed under health, Holford, home test, nutrition, patrick holford, supplements, vitamins

7 responses to “Patrick Holford and The Whole Health Dowsing Kit

  1. How a so-called academic can get away with this nonsense is amazing. That an alledgedly respectable academic institution can put up with this rubbish is depressing. It’s just magical thinking.

    It is, however, interesting how ‘birds of a feather flock together’: dowsing+homeopathy; acupuncture+homeopathy etc. Like the proverbial drunk leaning against a lamp post:seeking support rather than illumination.

  2. allhealth

    Patrick Holford may have his critics, but he is a great advocate of Organic Spirulina, so he can’t be all bad!

  3. allhealth- I’ve edited your comment to remove the link. No commercial links please – and, at any rate, I suspect that this site’s readers may not be the ideal target market for your spirulina…

  4. Like the proverbial drunk leaning against a lamp post:seeking support rather than illumination.

    I have lived a sheltered life because I have never seen that observation before but shall now use it whenever I can.

    The birds of a feather stuff does say something interesting (I’m not entirely sure what) about a certain sort of mindset.

  5. dvnutrix: The drunks and lamp post simile is a bit of an anachronism; you’re probably too young.

    I notice that the credulous blurb endorses the practise of dowsing generally. Unsurprisingly it’s a masterful demonstration of self-refutation: Don’t ask about something you don’t know – like your vitamin/nutrient status! The pendulum swings without the conscious movement of the use: of course it does, that’s why dowsing is nothing more than self-delusion via the ideomotor effect.

  6. apgaylard, is there an argument for saying that if you have been exposed to a lot of news stories that convince you that you have a deficient diet or lots of allergies, then if you ask yourself those questions, the ideomotor effect is liable to influence your response?

    Am I allergic to wheat?
    Am I allergic to dairy?
    Am I allergic to nuts?
    Am I allergic to eggs?

    Yes to each of the 4? Who would have anticipated that?

    Do I need supplemental vitamin C?
    Do I need supplemental glutamine?

    Do I need to get out more in the fresh air and stop reading the Daily Mail?

  7. dvnutrix: could well be; then all someone is dowsing is their own level of general anxiety. By the same token all health dowsing advocates are doing is exploiting a media-driven anxiety to bolster their own (relative) fame and fortune.

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