Patrick Holford and Natural Products magazine get things badly wrong about nutrition and allergy

Just a quick post – to note that Prof Patrick Holford of Teesside University has a pretty terrible article on hayfever on the Natural Products website. At a quick glance, a couple of things stand out. Holford says he

had Sonia take an IgG food intolerance test…which found that she was allergic to milk and eggs

No, it didn’t. IgG tests do not diagnose IgE-mediated allergies. They don’t seem to be clinically validated for diagnosing food intolerances, either – but they are definitely no good for diagnosing allergies.

Secondly, Holford had his client

sprinkle ground flax and pumpkin seeds (high in omega-3 fats) on her cereal

Flax seeds are relatively high in omega 3 fats; pumpkin seeds are much higher in omega 6 fats. This is not a trivial issue: it appears that the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats that we eat can impact on our health, and most people in the UK eat too much omega 6 and too little omega 3. If you’re looking to boost your omega 3 intake, pumpkin seeds therefore aren’t a good source (though they are tasty).

Natural Products tries to sell itself as a serious trade magazine: one wonders if it has editors who check for this kind of basic error. Then again, Teesside did choose to appoint Holford as Visiting Professor…



Filed under allergies, Holford, patrick holford, University of Teesside

9 responses to “Patrick Holford and Natural Products magazine get things badly wrong about nutrition and allergy

  1. popey

    I think you will find that people consume too much trans omega 6, so the inclusion of pumpkin seeds sound like a good idea.
    Holford is taking the strain off her immune system from variuos angles.
    Although in practice i have seen hayfever to be a little more complex in many cases. This is not bad advice for an article in a mag.

  2. Pumpkin seeds contain omega 6 so I am not quite following your argument.

    Do you have any references to support the claim that Holford’s advice “is taking the strain off her immune system from variuos angles”.

  3. Yes Popey – if Holford was recommending pumpkin seeds as a source of omega 6, why didn’t he say so? Recommending a ‘healthy’ food for the wrong reasons is still erroneous – as Holford’s fellow-nutritionist McKeith demonstrated with her novel justification for eating one’s greens.

  4. Claire O'Beirne

    Well, what a surprise. I really have to get this book: – ‘On being certain: believing you’re right even when you’re not’. I particularly like this from the author’s website:
    “…Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” are sensations that feel like thoughts, but arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that function independently of reason…”

    Silly old me, but I think I’ll stick with Dr Adrian Morris’s advice regarding antioxidant supplementation in hayfever:

    “Antioxidants are particularly popular in the lay press and are aggressively marketed by manufacturers as “cure all’s”. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta-Carotene, Selenium and Zinc are included in this category. There is no good evidence that these products have any beneficial effect in treating allergic rhinitis. N-acetyl cysteine (Solmucol) also a mucolytic with respiratory antioxidant activity may be of some limited benefit when used in combination with conventional treatment. Other mucolytic medication such as carbocisteine, which is used in Cystic Fibrosis, is often co-prescribed in allergic rhinitis, where it has little or no therapeutic value…”.
    IIRC, he is also sceptical about IgG tests in allergic conditions.

  5. Link for Adrian Morris on hayfever.

    Ditto on IgG for allergy diagnosis.

    Another allergy test of questionable accuracy is IgG ELISA test. This test measures IgG antibodies to the various foods. This should not be confused with IgE antibody testing in conventional RAST and UniCAP testing. Although a patient may develop IgG antibodies to food, this is a non-specific reaction and there is no evidence to suggest that this test has any diagnostic value. Until scientific evidence is available to validate this test, we cannot recommend its use for allergy diagnosis.There is some evidence that IgG antibodies may even protect against the development of food allergy!

  6. Claire

    Thanks DVN for those links – I limited myself to one to avoid ending up in the spam filter!

  7. It’s supposed to let through 4 before trapping them but that obviously doesn’t work and it isn’t something that we can fix. It’s not even as if you can pre-approve familiar commenters (so to speak). It’s pretty inflexible but better than being flooded with the rest I suppose.

  8. I was listening to my taped copy of ‘Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists’ (Radio 4/Ben Goldacre) the other night and I think that at one point Catherine Collins pointed out that IgG antibodies may be protective against allergy rather than diagnostic of allergy. As I understand it, if you drink milk you will have IgG antibodies for milk. The same goes for any other food you consume regularly.

    I once wrote a blog post on Holford’s support for IgG testing and found Breath Spa for Kids to be an invaluable source of information: has all posts in the IgG category – and I notice that Adrian Morris is quoted in some of these posts.

  9. The thing is whether or not you think the igG test isn’t ‘proven’ to be effective or not it seems that it is helping a lot of people. Ultimately it’s not that hard to find out really, if its says you are allergic to milk. Don’t do milk for a month and see what happens. Same with any other food allergy. I know that it has worked for my children. Also many things can impact our health the idea is it is up to us as individuals to discover what works best for us. BTW I don’t know many people who have overdosed on pumpkin seeds but many people have died from overdoses of pharmaceutical products!

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