Patrick Holford Goes Beyond a Pill for Every Ill to a Pill for Every Occasion

Visiting Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University and Head of Science and Education at Biocare has obviously been in deep consultation with the people who devised the Mastercard campaign. “Hallmark Moment, priceless. For everything else, there’s Mastercard.”

Life happens. For everything that’s part of it, there’s a Holford supplement.

Holford’s latest email to his followers informed them of umpteen new forumulations for every eventuality.

Our carefully formulated range of supplements help maintain health when faced with foreign bugs, the sun’s rays and cramped travelling conditions.

These include Cabinguard:

This targeted combination of multivitamin and mineral with a specific antioxidant blend is designed to support circulation and natural immunity,”[a] especially when flying or travelling in confined spaces.

  • Pine bark extract helps maintain blood flow
  • Grapeseed extract is rich in flavonoids which help maintain circulation
  • Recommended for long-haul travel…

Designed to be taken before, during and after travel… [Quoted from the email.]

A mere £9.95 for 16 capsules which represents 8 doses for an adult. Who can resist the website information:

Plant antioxidants are known to have enhanced effects when given in combination rather than isolation. CabinGuard® contains vitamin E, pine bark, grapeseed extract, bilberry and lycopene, all of which combine to support the cardiovascular system.

“In combination rather than isolation”, would that mean getting your vitamins and minerals from your food rather than relying on supplements (unless you have been advised otherwise by an appropriate healthcare practitioner)?

In the email you can also read all about TravelGuard to ensure “your stomach can cope with foreign food and bugs”[b] (15 capsules for £16.45). And then, there’s SolarGuard a “skin support complex to help maintain your body’s natural defences against ultraviolet damage”[c] (15 capsules for £9.95).

All of which is dandy, but it looks very much like the medicalisation of everyday life. And, just what is the evidence base for all of these formulations?[d]

HolfordWatch will be watching carefully for first signs of an exciting new collaboration with car manufacturers. E.g., the old-style Fiat 500 is an obvious example of “travelling in cramped conditions”, ditto the Mini and similar: it shouldn’t be too hard to adapt CabinGuard to that, nor to come up with a version for travelling on Edinburgh buses during the rush hour, or the London Underground during peak times.

You probably don’t have to struggle with cramped conditions in a BMW 7 Series but you must run the risk of a nasty chill from the air conditioning and be at risk of developing terminal smugness. And the Mercedes Benz Maybach, not a problem with the car so much as you probably spend your life at altitude, in Penthouse apartments or in the company Lear jet (ooh, radiation exposure).

What other commercial products is there a niche for? What other over-engineered and speculative creations do we need for problems that we have never formerly recognised? Is this a special form of supplement Chindōgu? For what other everyday occurrences should Holford be beavering away, formulating his supplements? What would be some ideal components, gold salts? Answers in the comment box, please.


[a] If you have reason to believe that your circulation is compromised, please consult your GP, don’t go dosing yourself. If you are concerned about air travel, you might want to nip along to your surgery and see if they have information about flight stockings, and what to eat or drink during flights. Some airlines give you in-seat exercise routines to follow but there is no substitute for being able to walk around (I know that lots of airlines discourage this).
We’ve provided some sample links for the components but it is difficult to know why Holford implies that your blood effectively turns to treacle that needs to be thinned: one of the greatest problems with this sort of travel is immobility.
Pine bark extract (aka Pycnogel). No strong evidence one way or another: just because it may have some contribution to asthma or chronic venous insufficiency is no reason to think it will help when travelling.
Bilberry. Unclear evidence for this, difficult to tell why it is recommended.
[b] The email informs us that TravelGuard capsules:

provide targeted, time-delayed release for maximum benefits. The inner capsule provides Biocare’s exclusive combination of LAB4 probiotics mixed with garlic concentrate while the outer capsule contains a blend of food grade plant oil extracts to help your body in the fight against bacteria and viruses.

Health Products for Life says:

TravelGuard® contains an inner capsule that provides BioCare’s exclusive combination of LAB4 probiotics mixed with garlic concentrate with the outer capsule providing a blend of food grade plant oil extracts, including coconut, cinnamon, oregano, clove, ginger and rosemary.

Well, yes, if you want to take a pill, knock yourself out, it’s your money. If you are going somewhere that is known to give an undue number of people a dodgy tum, we strongly advise that you should read any appropriate health warnings and consider taking a good quality water filter: don’t put ice in any drinks, don’t drink the water and remember to use filtered water to brush your teeth.
Garlic, ignoring the standing issues of standardisation and dosage, there is no clear evidence that it is effective against infection.
Clove oil has some clinical assessment for topical applications for dental pain but it has not been assessed for tummy bugs and similar.
Ginger has some clinical investigations (again, mostly unclear evidence and none for travel bugs): oil is less common so we couldn’t readily find any information.
Oregano oil sounds scrummy but there really is no evidence for it.
[c] Unless you have been advised to stay out of the sun, a little safe sun exposure is a good way of producing vitamin D. If you are going somewhere that is very sunny, then slip-slap-slop and make sure that you use a good sunscreen and reapply it at appropriate intervals.
Lycopene, the evidence status for this is unclear when it comes to protecting against sun damage and it is almost entirely from short-term studies.
Vitamin C, no good evidence for preventing skin damage whether applied topically or taken orally.
Beta-carotene, again unclear.
[d] Other issues aside, keep track of your supplement use and cumulative dosages and mention them to any doctor, dentist or other healthcare practitioner from whom you are seeking treatment. The NYT recently offered a salutary article on the topic of the Potential for harm in dietary supplements that demonstrates how easy it is to take several supplements that all have the same effect, such as the inhibition of platelet aggregation that can contribute to extended bleeding times.



Filed under Holford, patrick holford, supplements

7 responses to “Patrick Holford Goes Beyond a Pill for Every Ill to a Pill for Every Occasion

  1. tifosi246

    I look forward to whole range of CabinGuard meta-supplements. Start with “No 74 bus” then add more pills for “with schoolkids on board” or “full of Xmas shoppers”. Of course, for those of us in London, maybe a special supplement to counter-act the sick bus syndrome of “bendy buses” with a pair of smiley faces on the bottle – Holford and Boris!

    I’m pretty sure most car climate control systems (and certainly the Beemers and Maybach’s) have mulitple climate zones for different areas of the car, more meta-supplements here for “Beemer air con on for men” and “Beemer heater on for women”. The combinations are truly endless. This is the equivalent of the ring tone for the mobile phone.

  2. Looks like the pills aren’t cheap, either – more expensive than things like travel insurance (a rather more important precaution, if you’re leaving the country), and in most parts of the world you could get a couple of tasty meals for the price of the pills :)

  3. Yes, the supplements aren’t cheap, particularly when one has no way of measuring their efficacy and no comeback if they don’t work.

    I’m not entirely confident that the same lactobacilli that look after your gut bacteria in the UK are up to the job of coping with seriously adverse gut pathogens that you might pick up elsewhere. And, that double capsule layering trick, I could stand knowing a bit more about how they time tested that to make sure that the ‘correct’ layer self-destructs at the appropriate part of your GI tract.

    This thing about the increasingly specialised supplements, will there be a personalised pill trolley (as opposed to box) to organise them. The pill I take when I realise the baby has deposited a posset on my only clean jacket. The pill I take when the bus is late. The one on the bus because it is full of squabbling children. The one I take when I step in a puddle. Etc. etc.

  4. I think his next supplement will simply be called ‘Kerrching’ – is it just me or do these ‘…guard’ supplements seem a bit pricey? I wouldn’t pay 60p-£1 or so per pill unless it was something supported by fairly robust evidence.

    The point of Cabinguard seems to be basically to keep the blood flowing. I started thinking about this and whether half an aspirin would do the trick. Or a relatively cheap meal rich in EPA. Then I looked at the Department of Health advice – who advise that blood-thinning drugs should only be taken on the advice of one’s doctor. They have lots of other handy advice too – including what to wear, how to sit and what exercises to try. Most interestingly, they point out that “while there is evidence that graduated compression stockings may be useful there is no evidence that aspirin is effective in preventing travel-related DVT”. I think I’d go for the socks first myself, aspirin would be taken only if my GP advised it and I would avoid un-evidenced, expensive pills. Pine bark and Grapeseed for DVT? D’oH!

  5. Kat

    sounds remarkably like “Airborne”. Quote from Wikipedia:

    “On March 4, 2008, Airborne Health Inc. agreed to pay $23.3 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought against the company claiming that there is no evidence that the supplement wards off harmful bacteria and germs. Customers will be refunded for any Airborne they have ever bought.”

    May Holford’s products have the same “success”

  6. Claire

    I’m now wondering just how one is supposed to remember when to take all these pills … Oh, wait a minute, for £44.90 per month you can have the ‘memory pack’:

    Another niche covered!

  7. Ben

    Just read PH’s book “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan”, as I work with people with the condition and know i’ts devestating consequences for the person and family/carers. The book is frighteningly optimistic and simplistic. It infers that AD is preventable and that brain damage repairable. Ii it is so simple, why isn’t it part of a national NHS strategy? No NHS treatment regime has adopted this aparently cheap and simply remedy to a terminal condition. On trying to link into the two websites he repeatedly promotes in his book they are both “in error” and unobtainable. I wonder why?!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s