Patrick Holford Is Selling Gluten-Free Rice – Eh?

Totally Nourish Misleading text for Maharani Rice
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford is Head of Science and Education at Biocare so, presumably, they believe that he enhances their reputation and scientific credibility despite his recent egregious claim that “conventional medicine doesn’t have a very good track record“. However, he and his crack team of IONistas have been making some remarkable errors lately that are undermining the public understanding of even basic nutrition. It is difficult to know what Biocare makes of the recent claim in Patrick Holford’s 100%health newsletter that chicken drumstick and thigh are leaner than chicken breast and that the latter has a lower glycaemic load (both claims are best characterised as nonsense on stilts). We thought that the misinformation about chicken presented a new low but we were mistaken. Patrick Holford and mega-dosing, fish-oil replete, antioxidant-abundant team of IONistas[a] want to sell you rice. Not just any rice, Maharani rice that can justify its £5.99 per kg price tag because it is gluten-free and has a glycaemic index (GI) of 52. Excellent. Except that rice is already gluten-free unless you have added something to it and basmati rice has a GI of 58 which is not dramatically different.

Totally Nourish is the new name of Holford’s enterprise formerly known as Health Products for Life. We’re used to Patrick Holford promoting very costly products with implausible claims of 23 portions of fruit and vegetables in a glass but, with his faux concerns that his readers should be able to “save money eating healthily” (100%health newsletter, Jan 2009, No. 49, pg. 2) recommending Maharani rice for the reasons stated on Totally Nourish is bordering on contempt for his readers and bewildered customers who might assume that someone with Holford’s pundit brand equity knows what he is talking about when it comes to basic nutrition.

This delicious gluten free white rice is perfect for those wanting all the health benefits of brown rice with the taste and cooking time of white rice. With a GI rating of just 52 it also reduces bloating and helps you feel fuller for longer.

White rice is already gluten-free (it bears repeating). The GI of Maharani rice is so similar to that of basmati rice that you could manipulate the glycaemic load (GL) of your meal by adapting the quantity of rice and its ratio to other parts of the meal. Plus, GI testing reveals that there are variations of GI with testing facilities, season, cooking method and (above all) individual response.[1]

If you want to alter the GL of the rice then there are many ways of doing it, some of them would involve adding fat in the form of oil or nuts. If you didn’t wish to add oil, then you might add some steamed, finely minced, cauliflower (frozen is fine) to the rice: it looks similar and doesn’t detract from the fragrance of the aromatic rice. Cauliflower might cost more than most rice but it is substantially cheaper than £5.95 kg. It varies with the brand and quantity of rice that you are willing to purchase but decent brands of basmati rice are available for £1-2 per kg so Maharani rice is currently between 3-6 times more expensive.

There is no clinical evidence to support the implication that the glycaemic index of a foodstuff is related to the perception of bloating or even objective bloat. There are many factors that might influence the feeling of fullness.

What is the level of competence relating to nutrition that is acceptable to the founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and his IONistas? How much more distortion of basic nutritional facts are these people going to pass off on the increasingly bewildered public who have been confused by the out-pourings of people who “feed on the detritus that comes out from the scientific community” and add their own special alchemy to it before passing it on to the public through their own expert mediation?[b] When is the pseudoscience and inaccuracy going to stop?


[a] Alessandro Ferretti is named alongside Holford as the other Totally Nourish expert. Ferretti is, of course, an IONista, yet another who can call the Institute for Optimum Nutrition his alma mater – like Fiona McDonald Joyce of the “glycaemic load of chicken breast” fame.
[b] Yet again, we refer interested readers to an overview of the Justin Kruger and David Dunning paper that discusses how difficulties in understanding one’s own incompetence can lead to inflated self-assessments.

What’s even more amazing is that when they then shared the performance of other participants with the people who performed poorly (hoping that they would then adjust their self-perception downward) people who scored poorly failed to adjust their self-perception of their performance. In other words, they are completely unaware of their own [in]competence, and can’t detect competence in others.

It really it a very helpful paper that explains many otherwise inexplicable actions. (Holford Myths offers an excellent discussion as to why pundit brand equity ensures that Holford still receives so much positive attention in the mainstream media.)

A Photon in the Darkness likewise offers a helpful discussion of this paper: The Arrogance of Ignorance.

We do, however, acknowledge that there are some examinations of the variance of ability as a function of ability. It may be true that we all misjudge our ability and task difficulty but some of us seem to be more rigorous in scrutinising the evidence to guard against this and are open to correcting any errors.


[1] Foster-Powell K, Holt SH, Brand-Miller JC. International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Jul;76(1):5-56.




Filed under patrick holford

14 responses to “Patrick Holford Is Selling Gluten-Free Rice – Eh?

  1. Wulfstan

    That is a new low, even for Patrick Holford and the ION minions. I shouldn’t but I have to admit that on something as basic as this, I would have assumed that the fact that they stated something was gluten-free meant that other rice wasn’t – and if someone had told me that they were on a gluten-free diet, I might have considered buying something like this rice.

    From your miniblog, I read the GREEN PR company’s extensive whinge to Vaughan Bell.

    Science gets the reputation it deserves with limited media exposure, partially through the difficulty in understanding of some of its subject matter to non-scientific audiences. More fundamental, and fix-able, is that the scientific community has not invested in telling its story as thorough and effective as possible, sometimes being too hidebound by logic, and failing to recognize the potency of emotion in communications, and the reality of memes.

    You people are obviously “too hidebound by logic” to realise the emotional power of claiming that white rice is gluten-free. If not emotional, then certainly financial.

  2. Ohhh, is the rice free of sugar and saturated fats as well?

  3. Patrick Holford smacks own forehead

    You are absolutely right, Lee. How did my web content writers miss that wrinkle? Look out for the upcoming correction.

    We possibly need to stress that the oil is in the rice bran and that isn’t on this nice white refined rice product.

    Although, I’d like your advice on how to pitch the rice as low glycaemic (that implies some sugar content) and no sugar at the same time. Hmm, thinking caps on.

    Love, light but definitely no sugar.

    @Wulfstan. The problem is that this sort of misinformation becomes ambient – people don’t remember where they picked up the ‘fact’ that rice has gluten (particularly when it didn’t state it but just stated that something was gluten-free) but it is something that they know.

    Yes, far too logical :-) The Maharani rice is shaping up to be financial boon for someone.

  4. UKdietitian

    Beautifully put, Holfordwatch.
    Patrick could learn a lot about nutrition by reading your site…

  5. Alice Palgrave

    Excellent content here. The level of disinformation about gluten-free diet grows uncontrollably until people with celiac disease do not have any hope of people really understanding what a gluten-free diet looks like.

    If these people are qualified nutritionists how come they don’t seem to have heard of rice flour in gluten-free mixes for bread?

  6. @Wulfstan: “You people are obviously “too hidebound by logic” to realise the emotional power of claiming that white rice is gluten-free. If not emotional, then certainly financial.”
    Phew! I’m glad I finished my cuppa before reading that. There could so easily have been another keyboard biting the dust otherwise…

    @Alice: “If these people are qualified nutritionists how come they don’t seem to have heard of rice flour in gluten-free mixes for bread?”
    That’s an excellent question. The term “qualified nutritionist” is probably only meaningful depending on the quality of said nutritionist’s education. If the education is of such a poor standard that there is little or no awareness of which foods are gluten-free then “qualified nutritionists” probably aren’t appropriate persons to dispense dietary advice to clients. It doesn’t say much for the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, IMHO, when the founder of this establishment seems to have misunderstandings on fairly basic questions of nutrition.

  7. pv

    I believe it is against the law to make a claim for something as a distinguishing feature that is in fact a normal integral characteristic. For example fat-free water, or mercury-free MMR. Gluten-free rice indeed. Don’t the ASA have something to say about that?
    Anyhow, I look forward to the day when some wealthy soul sues the pants off huckster Holford

  8. @Alice, Patrick Holford is not a qualified nutritionist – he only has an honorary qualification in nutrition that was conferred on him by the institute that he founded. IONistas is the name of people who took a qualification at that institute.

    We have documented a number of basic errors from IONistas and Patrick Holford. However, this gluten-free rice business is a new low.

  9. @pv, although they are looking into the issue of websites, the ASA does not investigate advertising on websites, that is the purview of the over-worked Trading Standards who tend to have no interest as they are overwhelmed.

    According to David Colquhoun’s post about Trading Standards, there may well be grounds for complaining but it very much depends on finding a Trading Standards that is willing to take action.

  10. The BDA says we should try to eat a wholegrain with every meal which causes me an immense amount of distress because I can’t find any wholegrain pototoes. Mr Holford accuses the BDA of being really far behind so perhaps …. he has designed one? Appearing on a website near you soon.

  11. Nice memory jog there, Lee. Yes, instead of coming up with self-serving nonsense about what is included or excluded from the Manual of Dietetic Practice, Holford would be well advised to read it rather than flick through it – he would learn basic information such as which foodstuffs are gluten-free etc.

  12. Pingback: Totally Nourish using Food Intolerance Week to advertise Maharani ‘gluten free rice’ « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  13. zudzu

    How is this different than lying by omission? If rice doesn’t have gluten unless it has been added in the processing then this is deceitful.

  14. zukie

    I notice that the text on that page has changed although some of the stupid remains.

    Maharani Rice is a good, ethical company that is committed to supplying a good product and they would not like their goods to be described in a misleading fashion.

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