Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford never fails to disappoint. The other day, I had noted that although he cleaves to his over-hyped enthusiasm for chromium supplements, the hyperbolic claims about cinnamon although still excessive were comparatively more nuanced than previous occasions – still wrong, but some useful nuance. I had hoped that this was the first green shoots of an improved approach to evidence.
However, Holford is now back to his usual form. He ignores the opportunity to update his advice for the ‘treatment’ of autism following the public revelations about the fraud and deliberate manipulation that irreperably taint Dr Andrew Wakefield and his research. He clutches instead for the topical subject of mercury fillings on Tonight with Trevor McDonald because it allows him to shill for his Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan. Patrick Holford displays no sense of taste or decorum – presumably he takes special supplements that confer the protection of a brass neck on him.
Holford recycles the tired old anecdote and interview with Tom Warren from his normally paywalled area as if this is a rare treasure (the more that he does this, the more it exposes the extraordinarily poor value for money people get from subscriptions to his 100%health club service). Tom Warren blames his fillings for his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease and praises Hal Huggins for his insight into mercury toxicity. It is, sadly, worth noting that Hal Huggins lost his licence to practise dentistry in 1996 for reasons that a court judgment elaborated in some chilling detail.
Huggins had built indiscriminate tooth extraction into a lucrative industry while blithely admitting that there was no clinical support for his ‘diagnostic questionnaire’ or more generally his hypotheses about heavy metal toxicity arising from dental amalgams. Huggins diagnosed “mercury toxicity” even in clients who did not have fillings. In a marketing lesson that has been well absorbed by Holford and similar nutritionists or health gurus, Huggins persuaded clients that mercury amalgam fillings caused: tremors, seizures, MS, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, emotional disturbances, depression, anxiety, unprovoked suicidal thoughts, lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, unexplained heart pains, high and low blood pressure, tachycardia, irregular heartbeat, osteoarthritis, chronic fatigue, brainfog, digestive problems, and Crohn’s disease.
It’s clear that concentrating on Alzheimer’s Disease would reduce the market size for which Holford is competing so, in an eerily Huggins-esque way (regular readers might recall Holford’s own, tremendously long questionnaire filled with clinically irrelevant questions leading to spurious diagnoses), Holford undermines Tom Watson in his desperate attempt to broaden his customer base and to expand selling opportunities for his own books and supplement formulations:
Personally, I don’t think true Alzheimer’s is caused by mercury toxicity but I’m convinced that excess mercury can bring on dementia-like symptoms. If you’d like to know more about this read The Alzheimers Prevention Plan.
Surely Holford must have more advice? Yes, he does. However, it is both distressing and ludicrous to report it. He recommends chelation. Seriously. Chelation. Chelation supported by supplements and pills but still chelation.
The best course of action for those people suspecting mercury or heavy metal toxicity due to amalgams is to visit a dentist who knows about removing mercury fillings. Amalgam removal is available but obviously this can only be carried out by a properly trained dentist and is usually supported by a chelation protocol. This process provides your body with binding agents to help transport the mercury and heavy metals out of the body and makes sure that the heavy metal is not just displaced to another area of the body. Supplements should be used to help support your body’s natural detoxification process and help chelate these toxic metals out of the body.
A tad disingenuous there, I feel. Few people would spontaneously ‘suspect’ that their dental amalgams were responsible for heavy metal toxicity – in fact, they would not suspect it if people were in possession of the actual numbers and type and route of exposure that would normally be necessary to justify the phrase. Nor would they think it if they were not bamboozled by inappropriate tests and diagnostic procedures. It is, of course, in the interests of people shilling their books and products not to share such information, nor to refer to any of the relevant studies that assess neurological development and dental amalgam.
Dr Crippen of NHS Blog Doctor has written about the unevidenced nature of chelation. We can only add that chelation treatments have killed people – people who had been subjected to bogus tests and told that they had high levels of heavy metal toxicity. These people were persuaded to undergo chelation by either unscrupulous or foolish practitioners who presented meaningless data to them. In the case of Abubakar Tariq Nadama, his parents consented to the misguided intervention. Donald McBride N.D. persuaded Ms Sandy Boyland to accept the chelation. She died following heart problems. She developed the heart problems because chelation will also bind and remove other heavy metals the body needs, such as calcium. The State Medical Examiner returned a finding that she had died following cardiac arrhythmia induced by low calcium.
The clinical qualifying indicators for chelation therapy are very clear. Chelation is appropriate in people for whom there is documented heavy metal exposure that points towards toxicity, in conjunction with appropriate laboratory work and clinical symptomatology from the medical history. In the absence of such exposures or other indications, chelation is not an appropriate intervention for autism, coronary artery disease, cancer, tinnitus, or a feeling of general malaise.
Chelation for such conditions is not clinically indicated, is not evidence-based and resembles quackery or a deception practised upon the vulnerable.
Chelation is not a risk-free procedure. There are clear indications that popular chelation interventions for children with autism may be contributing to neurological damage.
There are cosmetic and aesthetic reasons for opting for composite materials other than mercury amalgam but that does not make it acceptable to alarm people and persuade them to undertake expensive and potentially dangerous interventions.
In a final sprint finish as if sensing that he needs to make a dash for the tape in some odd competition to win a prize for brazen self-interest, Holford concludes with an advert not only for himself, but for Biocare and the Brain Bio Centre that has been assimilated into the Borg of Food for the Brain.
Nutrients such as vitamin C can help protect the body against heavy metal accumulation, as can MSM (a form of sulphur), n-acetyl cysteine and magnesium. Biocare’s Biomer is a high potency chelating complex designed by a leading pharmacologist and toxicologist to safeguard the body’s eliminative process. These nutrients, plus high dose vitamin C is what I took for three days before, and two weeks after having all my mercury fillings removed.
The Brain Bio Centre at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition offers comprehensive diagnostic testing and optimum nutrition based treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Holford is, of course, Head of Science and Education at Biocare and formulates pills for them. As for that ‘leading pharmacologist and toxicologist’ – hm. Biocare merely describes the formulator of Biomer as “a leading Clinical Ecologist” which is pretty much meaningless. there is no evidence to support the use of this product in such a manner.
Patrick Holford is CEO of Food for the Brain and the director of the Brain Bio Centre so has a financial interest in both. This is the man who acts as a moral barometer for others, pointing out alleged conflicts of interest and questioning the integrity of reputable researchers such as Professor Carolyn Summerbell.
Professors David Smith and Philip Cowen lend their considerable gravitas and intellectual reputations to Food for the Brain – both are on its Scientific Advisory Board. Smith is also associated with the Brain Bio Centre and provided the foreword to Holford’s lamentable Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan. Using the intellectual shield of their reputations, Holford pushes his self-interested, unevidenced recommendations, books and supplements.
It is more and more extraordinary that Professors David Smith and Philip Cowen are content for their reputations to be used in this way for Holford’s self-interest. It is time for the University of Oxford to request that both men should cease to use their titles and affiliations in connection with their association with Holford.