Patrick Holford: Labels Aren’t Important, Apparently

Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford and Head of Science and Education at Biocare made a surprising statement in a recent talk at the Allergy and Gluten Free Show 2008.

Some readers may recall that Holford was introduced as Professor Holford on the recent Radio 5 discussion with Professor Gluud despite strict instructions from Teesside that he was not to use a title without agreement from them and it is not clear that the relevant parties achieved an agreement on this point before his recent resignation.[1]

Readers may remember Holford’s impassioned Je m’acquitte: My right to be called a nutritionist.

Goldacre, who only left university in 1995, says I am unqualified to call myself a nutritionist. I have spent the last 30 years researching, teaching, writing and practising nutrition. I am not sure what else I can call myself.

And, who can forget his tap-dancing around the issue of his qualifications and the nature of his status in the Late, Late, Show segment with Emer Keeling.

The Late Late Show, RTE Television. 3 November 2006.

EK (to PH): You’re a psychologist, is that right?

PH: And a nutritionist.

EK: What is a nutritionist?

PH: A nutrititionist….

EK: What is the training for a nutritionist?

PH: Well, it was…It’s a 3 or 4 year training.

EK: In science?

PH: Absolutely.

End segment

HolfordWatch brings these matters to your attention because of Holford’s opening remarks in his recent talk on Hidden Food Allergies.

I’m actually a psychologist by training, originally, but labels are not important. I seem to be known as a nutritionist these days.

Well, possibly Holford is known as a nutritionist because he refers to himself as a nutritionist and he has a PR company that promotes him as a nutritionist. And, because nutritionist is not a protected term in the UK, he has as much right to refer to himself as a nutritionist as everyone else in the UK.

However, in the words of those celebrated leaders of contemporary thought, Bucks Fizz, we have one small observation: it’s time to be Making Your Mind Up. Holford is either a nutritionist because he says that he is (as he is entitled to do) or by general acclamation from people whose opinion in such matters is valued: there seems to be a steadily diminishing number of the latter.[2]


[1] The Holford Myths post refers to FOIA documents about the discussion at Teesside about Holford’s use of a title: “it is not normally University practice to attach a descriptor to the title of Visiting Professor”. A bird informs us that there is at least one occasion when Holford insisted on being referred to as Professor Holford in print when he had initially been named as Mr Holford. We shall bring you further documentation on this when it is possible.
[2] Credulous journalists don’t count. We are looking for knowledgeable people who are prepared to describe him as an expert in a named field, over time. You may recall Dr John Marks’ and Prof Andre Tylee’s withdrawal of support. You may have noticed that Professor Jonathan Waxman’s endorsement of Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs had disappeared from the website. We had heard that Waxman had requested that his endorsement should be removed. However, since the re-vamp of the website, it seems that the endorsements have re-appeared. It is difficult to know if this is a site re-building glitch or if Waxman has changed his mind. Time will tell.
Time will also tell whether the University of Teesside attempted to persuade Holford to retain his Visiting Professorship and continue to lend his special lustre to the academic reputation of the School of Social Sciences and Law but were disappointed by his decision to go.



Filed under Holford, patrick holford, University of Teesside

4 responses to “Patrick Holford: Labels Aren’t Important, Apparently

  1. tifosi246

    Such faux modesty, Mr. Holford! The About Patrick Holford page on his website states:

    He is widely regarded as Britain’s best-selling author and leading spokesman on nutrition and mental health issues…

    And, although labels aren’t important, further down that page we (still) read:

    In 2007 he was conferred a Visiting Professorship in the School of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Teesside.

    Oh to be able to update that with “and in 2008, having made exuberant claims, mis-interpreted and generally got the wrong end of the stick on various research studies, impugning the integrity of well-respected colleagues in the process, the Vice Chancellor suggested that he would, with regret, accept Holford’s resignation to allow him to devote himself further to his research, writing and mission to create 100%health for everyone through the value of his own scientific expertise.”

    Do you think that anyone in Teesside is planning a festschrift in tribute to his time with them?

  2. What an interesting idea, Tifosi. A festschrift is always a touching tribute that sums up one’s contribution to a field. It’s an opportunity for former students to write-up the many ways in which their supervisor’s guidance influenced their own work in the field. It is a fitting tribute from colleagues who admire and recognise one’s work.

    I wonder if a FOIA request might reveal that one is under way. Any guesses as to how many pages it might contain, or references to Holford’s peer-reviewed work?

  3. brainduck

    By tomorrow I’ll have the same psychology qualifications as Holford, but I’d be reluctant indeed to call myself a ‘psychologist’ in the media on this basis, at least without appropriate qualification, due to the likelihood of it being misunderstood. He doesn’t have a treating-people psychology qualification & I do wish he’d be clearer on that.

  4. Pingback: Patrick Holford: Why Did BBC Oxford Radio Give Him Free Advertising? « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

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