The Mail believes that Holford is an “holistic doctor”: Updated Twice

Despite what the Daily Mail tells you, Patrick Holford is neither a doctor nor a qualified nutritionist

Despite what the Daily Mail tells you, Patrick Holford is neither a doctor nor a qualified nutritionist

The People’s Medical Journal has now taken to conferring its own medical degrees and an early recipient is Patrick Holford. In an article on addiction to painkillers bought over-the-counter, the Daily Mail reports that

Unhappy with her GP’s suggestion of more, potentially addictive, medication to help ease her dependency, Chris followed a diet and vitamin regime prescribed by holistic doctor Patrick Holford to wean herself off the tablets. [Back-Up URL version in case the Daily Mail alters the text.]

As readers will probably know, Holford is not a doctor, not even a holistic one. But, to be fair, the Daily Mail’s conferment of a medical degree has about as much standing as his own honorary qualification in nutrition awarded to him by the institution he founded. (What a thrilling and unexpected tribute that must have been.)

Patrick Holford registered for an MPhil at Surrey, but failed to meet the criteria for an MPhil so did not manage to progress to a PhD. He has no accredited degree-level qualification in nutrition, never mind medicine (although he did manage a 2.2 in Psychology). All these details and more are on this blog – easily accessible to anyone with Google – but the Daily Mail still manages to get this wrong.

We would also note that – when dealing with addiction – Holford’s tendency to focus on diet and pills is unhelpfully reductive: for example, what about the social issues involved? Using the Daily Mail’s terms, Patrick Holford should thus be viewed as a non-holistic non-doctor. On the plus-side, though, the Daily Mail did spell Holford’s name correctly.

A final thing to note is that – as the Daily Mail article makes very clear – addiction to painkillers can be serious, even fatal. It is therefore extremely important to consider which treatments are effective, and which are not. Accuracy is vital, which makes the Daily Mail’s reporting of this especially disappointing. This probably wasn’t the case, but from their copy, it looks as if ‘Chris’ might have self-managed her own recovery. The Daily Mail needs to stress that it is essential that people with such addictions should consult their GPs. E.g., anybody who has been taking a combined product, say with ibuprofen, may well have eroded the stomach lining and have other problems that need evaluation and careful management – this is not something that should be done without appropriate supervision. It should also be remembered that there are addictions where the substances may have damaged the kidneys, liver or other organs and it may be very unwise for people to experiment with vitamin or mineral supplements under those circumstances.

We have posted a comment on the article, on the Daily Mail’s site: pointing out that their attribution of a medical qualification and title to Patrick Holford is mistaken. Hopefully, they will correct it promptly.

After their recent pock-marked performance, one has to question whether the Daily Mail has any reasonable quality control checking in place or if they are careless about the information that they give to their readers.


Daily Mail has yet to correct the story and it has not let through any of the comments that correct Patrick Holford’s status. More amusingly however, Holford has the story in a self-laudatory fashion and has also neglected to correct that part of the article.

Update 2

We have just had an e-mail from Holford’s PR and Marketing Manager: she contacted the Mail this morning to try to correct their error. We are pleased to see such a prompt correction, but wish that Holford would see fit to correct more significant errors on topics such as Wakefield.



Filed under patrick holford

8 responses to “The Mail believes that Holford is an “holistic doctor”: Updated Twice

  1. Every addict has their own way of recovering but I wish people would stop derogating “GP’s suggestion of more, potentially addictive, medication to help ease her dependency”.

    It is fantastic when people are able to cease taking a particular substance abruptly – that is not possible with all addictive substances and some of them need to be tapered when they are the sort that might have suppressed the body’s own production of particular hormones etc.

    For some people, giving up one substance can lead to remarkable anxiety and, sometimes, yes, a 5-day or so course of a muscle-relaxant or similar might be helpful and smooth the transition. That is a short-course, thoughtfully administered and monitored as part of clinical care. Potentially addictive? Depends on your personal make-up and exposure etc. etc. Given that Holford is currently trying to convince people that addictions to sugar and heroin are equivalent, calling something “potentially addictive” doesn’t seem that helpful or useful.

    Chris’ story seems conveniently in line with Holford’s usual anecdotes and claims that ‘conventional medicine doesn’t have a very good track record’. It smacks of a PR filler on a fashionable scare topic. One doesn’t expect much of the Daily Mail but this is low, even for them.

    • AmandaWR

      Patrick Holford has helped me enormously, I think it’s very sad that a website is dedicated to criticising one person.

      • He isn’t a doctor, he isn’t a qualified nutritionist. You don’t think it’s a little bit sad that you commented without really reading the website or even comprehending this post?

        It’s splendid that Patrick Holford helped you but wouldn’t you rather that it was from sustainable, verifiable principles than mistakes and distortions, depending on the nature of the help.

        Read our comment policy – be on topic for a post or place your comments in the area labelled off-topic – but again, it won’t surprise you that your ‘criticism’ is far from original and has been made before and answered before now…

  2. Wulfstan

    I find the whole story as natural and uncontrived as the Penthouse story that The Onion ran (maybe NSFW depending on filters).

    I hadn’t fully twigged that addicts with a compromised stomach-lining or undiagnosed damage to liver and kidneys should not be ramping up doses of supplements without understanding whether or not they are safe. For all the usual talk of compromised detox, I suppose some addicts genuinely might have a detox problem and shouldn’t assume that they can handle all supplements safely.

  3. Wulfstan

    So Stephanie Fox emailed you about this but about nothing else? Did she have her blush response removed as a pre-requisite for working for her present employer?

    What is the Daily Mail going to say?
    1 Sorry, Patrick Holford is not a doctor.
    2 Actually, Patrick Holford is not a qualified nutritionist.
    3 It turns out that Patrick Holford has no documented accreditations in the field of addiction work.
    4 We’re not entirely clear why we have incorporated one of his anecdotes in this piece.

  4. Pingback: Mark & Vanessa

    • Good point re the lack of a published correction. I think all newspapers should have a designated “corrections and clarifications” section for exactly this kind of thing. The Press Complaints Commission tells us that “A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.” I guess the Mail’s defence could be that they don’t consider errors on the qualifications of AltMed practitioners to be significant.

      “Allegedly, we get the press that we deserve.”
      The PCC claim on their website to “keep industry standards high by training journalists and editors”. I think they mean “attempt to keep…”

  5. Pingback: Daily Mail Finds Scientist’s G-Spot « jdc325’s Weblog

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