Patrick Holford and Zeitgeist Addendum

Patrick Holford’s latest blog post advises readers that:

If you are suffering as a result of recession, and under the immense stress of real or pending debt; if you are confused about how countries can pump billions of currency into the banking system, or go bust; if you have effectively become enslaved, working harder and harder, to cover your own costs; then you might be interested in knowing how money is made – why all money is debt – how the ultimate control over people, the modern day equivalent of salvery, is achieved through money. If so, I would strongly recommend you see the film Zeitgeist Addendum.

For an holistic understanding of health and illness (I refuse to write about ‘wellness’) it certainly is important to understand the complexities of human societies. Recession – and its consequences, such as rising unemployment and financial uncertainty – can have significant health impacts. This is a serious topic, and it is therefore unfortunate that Holford’s expertise here is on a par with his knowledge of the field of nutrition: Zeitgeist Addendum is an unfortunate choice of video to recommend. Wikipedia on Zeitgeist Movie and Addendum gives a flavour of the horrors of the Addendum. The Irish Times was one of the few papers to review the Movie: Zeitgeist: the nonsense.

These are surreal perversions of genuine issues and debates, and they tarnish all criticism of faith, the Bush administration and globalisation – there are more than enough factual injustices in this world to be going around without having to invent fictional ones.

One really wishes Zeitgeist was a masterful pastiche of 21st-century paranoia, a hilarious mockumentary to rival Spinal Tap. But it’s just deluded, disingenuous and manipulative nonsense.

Sadly, practice does not make perfect and Zeitgeist Addendum is not an improvement.

Rather than offering an holistic account of the effects of recession on public health, Holford simply recommends a conspiracy theory video. Of course, a single credulous reference to a largely worthless source does not make a Holford text: Holford shows how much he cares by bringing his own special touch, over-extrapolating from this film to fit his own special agenda:

Think about health for a minute. We’ve had over 50 years of modern medicine. We spend over $600 billion a year on prescription drugs. Are we healthier? It is clear the whole world is suffering from an ever-increasing epidemic of obesity, diabetes and associated conditions from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s. Is this the sign of a more or less healthy population?

One could offer the glib answer ‘more healthy’ for more people. Many of the diseases mentioned are a result of ageing: as people get older, certain illnesses become more likely. To misquote Woody Allen: getting old is the worst thing in the world, until you consider the alternative. On a more sophisticated level, one might follow Fogel to argue that there have been significant improvements in human health in our recent history. Interestingly, some of the other diseases are those associated with prosperity, something that is relatively new in many countries and something to which it seems that we need to adapt.

As for the “whole world”, some of those countries are still waiting for a decent system of primary health care. The most substantial health problem for the “whole world” is probably malaria.

Let us never forget that that 50 years which Holford affects to disdain encompasses eliminating smallpox as a public health scourge in a truly collaborative world-wide effort (pdf). The vaccination programme means that more children are growing up without preventable disabilities that were too frequently the consequences of those illnesses, such as blindness, deafness, or a susceptibility to respiratory illnesses.

However, without considering such details, Holford continues:

Then what? The sicker you get the more drugs you need. The more drugs you take the sicker you get. Now you’re enslaved, and in debt, to the healthcare system, either paying for it yourself or paying for it through taxes.

We should remember that many of these sicknesses come as people get older. Again, getting old and depending on well-managed therapeutic intererventions is – very often – better than the alternative as long as there is quality of life.

Of course, we are very much in favour of evidence-based medicine – often, a very effective weapon against the pill-pushing and disease-mongering of big pharma. Drugs often bring problematic side-effects, and where effective non-drug treatments are available then that is to be welcomed. Patients should be empowered to work with their healthcare practitioners in order to assess the evidence and choose the best course/s of treatment. Sadly, this is not what Holford recommends in his blog post:

The sole purpose of my books, and the 100% Health Club is to inform you so you stay healthy in the first place, and to empower you to be a master of your health so you don’t need drugs.

Holford asks that readers subscribe to his 100% Health Club (and we are familiar with the standard of advice), buy his books that contain distortions of research literature, and so forth. He recommends, ironically, considering a number of drugs – from secretin to kava kava – although we are not convinced that Holford has adequately assessed the evidence of their efficacy and safety for their intended uses. Holford also recommends taking a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fats in pill form and in what are often unevidenced doses: far more than one could get from food. Holford often claims drug-like therapeutic effects for these pills.

Sadly, then, instead of addressing the complex links between recession, health and illness Holford uses a crude conspiracy film to launch into an attack on medicine. As an alternative to medicine, he recommends his own approach: a combination of drugs and nutrients which very often either lack evidence of working for the suggested purpose, or have been shown not to work. Instead of working to free people from enslavement to pills and to particular reductionist concepts of healthcare, Holford advises that they turn to different pills (often, with pictures of his face on the bottles). NHS treatment is free, or nearly free, at the point of need in Britain; the pills Holford recommends tend to be expensive.

I suppose that keeping the pill sales strong may help Holford (and the pharmaceutical company that is the largest shareholder in Neutrahealth, who own the Biocare company that sellers Holford’s pills) avoid the worst consequences of recession. This is a million miles away from the holistic approach merited by the current interesting times, but an interesting use of paranoia as a marketing tool.




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32 responses to “Patrick Holford and Zeitgeist Addendum

  1. Wulfstan

    Speaking for myself, apart from listening to a Festival of Stockhausen, there is little that I enjoy more than being lectured to by a millionaire on how to raise my consciousness and reflect on my spiritual needs during a recession.

    Enslaved to nebulous forces or enslaved to Patrick Holford and his ‘teachings’ – is this supposed to be a variation on, “Better the devil you know”?

  2. Let us remember that if we purchase products formulated by Patrick Holford we are in some way giving our money to Big Pharma.

    Apart from the usual shock that Professors Philip Cowen and David Smith are lending their reputations to someone who promotes Zeitgeist and similar conspiracy theories, someone whom they acknowledge to do poor research that carries the imprimatur of their names.

    I had thought marketing by paranoia was restricted to insurance companies. And that doesn’t begin to address the issue of frightening people through misinformation and the distortion of research results.

    Consider the issue that Patrick Holford and his Big Industry backers are attempting to persuade us that it is impossible to attain adequate nutrition from food and that we must take supplements. Who is misleading us? Who is indulging in disingenuous nonsense?

    Yes, there are far too many actual injustices in the world to need to fabricate any.

  3. UK RD

    Could I paraphrase Patrick?

    “Think about health for a minute. We’ve had over 50 years of Linus Paulings totally wrong hypotheses on Orthomolecular medicine which started with grams of (oral) Vitamin C being wrongly touted as cancer cures. The unethical pushing of such supplements lead to ambivalence by the medical profession to allow proper researchers like Mark Levine to examine the effect of high dose Vitamin C as an adjunct to cancer therapy – trials are now underway to evaluate its effectiveness beyond the test-tube and the animal model.
    We spend millions a a year on non-prescription nutritional products touted as pseudo-medicines and drugs by Patrick and His People (ker-ching!). Are we healthier? It is clear the whole world is suffering from an ever-increasing epidemic of panic pill popping in a futile and disproven attempt to correct obesity, diabetes and conditions from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s – all of which IONistas promote as being preventable by vitamin pill popping. Is this the sign of a more or less healthy population?”

    “Then what? The sicker you think you’ll get the more supplements you think you need. The more vitamin and chromium and curcumin pills you take the poorer you get. Now you’re enslaved, and in debt, to the alternative, usually disproven and unaccountable system, paying for it yourself or the rest of us paying through taxes to treat you of a self-induced health problem because you are gullible and Patrick sounds plausible.”

  4. I always find it fascinating when people tell me how much such-and-such a nutri-pill or herb benefits their health, and then launch into a detailed description of their multiple ailments. It’s striking how much people hang onto their supplements – and evangelise about their health benefits – even when these benefits are very much not apparent.

  5. UK RD, it is unfortunate that unrealistic claims and marketing hyperbole passed off as fact by a certain sort of self-styled expert has delayed useful research.

    Such problems might make one even less willing to embrace the dietary recommendations (which tend to be one-note of the Holford Low GL Diet) which, despite all the self-righteous hectoring, has no adequate evidence base to suggest efficacy.

    So, maybe it is no surprise that Patrick Holford is endorsing this film and it meets his criteria for reality and expert commentary. Is it wrong to find Zeitgeist Addendum as dripping in realism as Black Sheep (- the movie trailer)?

  6. Pingback: sensible girl

  7. Pingback: Patrick Holford on Andrew Wakefield: He Needs to Issue an Update « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  8. mystle

    zeitgeist addendum is full of the eyescaldingly stupid. like people dont have enough real things in their lives someone has to make stuff up.

    but, trying to market scam off that to sell your own pills, that strikes me as funny. its just so opposed to the deeply spiritual, everyones your brother, message that the film puts out there.

  9. Highlander

    That is a whacked-out film with some apple-pie truisms about being kind people and loving our neighbor.

    Who is this guy that thinks the message of that film is that we should help our fellow man by charging them money to hear a health message and sell them over-priced supplements that have no proof behind them?

    If he watched the film he recommends, he doesn’t understand it.

  10. Gudren Hildebrant

    Zeigeist Addendum had many useful messages to those who are ready to hear them.

    Yeah – not one of them was about misleading others, selling expensive supplements and making a profit for Big Pharma.

    Patrick Holford can’t have watched the film he recommends. From what you write – it seems as if he often doesn’t read the research he cites.

    He can’t have any credibility among people whose opinion matters.

  11. Vron J

    What sort of message is there for anyone who is frightened of losing their jobs and their homes?

    Watching this film and raising your consciousness will save you? Take MY PILLZ that will save you?


  12. John

    I have lost my job. I’m in my 50s and don’t expect to get another one. My savings are wiped out and I don’t know how my family will survive.

    This is nearly as sickening as all those journalists with secure jobs and income telling us that this is an ideal time to reflect on our lives and step away from the madding crowd. Jerks.

  13. Mark & Vanessa

    I agree. I’m sick of all these people saying it’s for the best.

    Working people have been screwed. Those financiers who got us in this mess are feather-bedded and bailed out.

    The solution doesn’t like in stupid vitamin pills or millionaires selling us their advice.

  14. Highlander

    One of these preaching figureheads (no pun intended) who was the most offensive was that archbishop who said that this was a time for stilling the noise of our blackberries and reflecting on our spiritual needs.

    He has an income of nearly £60K per annum and a free mansion.

    The people who spout all this need to walk a mile in the shoes of those they are giving this advice to.

  15. Vron J

    Seems like a case where this advice is worth exactly what you pay for it LOL.

    Except, seems like some are paying for it?

    Barnum said that there’s one born every minute and there is no reason to doubt that is still true.

  16. Mark & Vanessa

    Maybe the suckers who believe him would send the money to us if we could devise a similar scam.

    I have an evil eye amulet that will protect you from redundancy and some vitamins that you must take as twilight starts. Didn’t work? No refund as you must have been doing it wrong.

  17. sensible girl

    You made me curious so I just tried to watch but had to give up.

    You were too kind about this mockumentary that even fails to be as funny as Spinal Tap.

    How anyone ever appointed this man as a professor – just who else was on the shortlist?

    Admin edit: we should point out that Patrick Holford didn’t ever give any lectures or do any work for the Uni. of Teesside during his appointement. And he wasn’t appointed through interview or any other sensible criteria – it’s all a very odd story.

  18. Highlander

    He didn’t have to go through an interview?

    It really is a different world for the rich and bloatedly privileged.

    Hard to see what Patrick Holford is complaining about as the world seems to be doing OK by him.

    I suppose he is telling us to all eat his vitamin pills rather than cake which is the 21st century version but still offensive and stupid.

  19. Vron J

    I’m almost afraid to ask but in among the platitudes, is he one of those supremely-confident know-alls who went to public school?

    Admin edit: on the education front, according to a piece by Lucy Mayhew, Patrick Holford did, indeed, attend a private school – Westminster.

  20. Mark & Vanessa

    So Patrick went to a private school. He performed unimpressively at university despite his privileged private education. Despite all this, he still managed to parlay all that into a thriving business that has made him a millionaire but feels the need to finesse his CV to get a job he probably might not have got been appointed to if there had been any competition.

    He is very well-placed to lecture us on how to survive a recession as long as you have his resources.

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