Monthly Archives: June 2009

FSA’s Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey: Some Snippets

The Eating within recommended dietary guidelines and on a budget project is having some difficulties. Not, oddly, on the actual shopping, cooking or budgeting fronts but the dietary analysis that I want to perform. On the upside, I have located some useful figures relating to low income diet, nutrient intake and food spend budgets. Continue reading

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Patrick Holford Claims More People Die, Prematurely, From Cardiovascular Disease Than Actually Die, Prematurely, From All Causes

Patrick Holford on ITV Lunchtime 16 April 2008
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford is Head of Science and Education at Biocare. Despite the imprimatur of respectability about these confidence-inspiring titles, from time to time, there are disappointing errors in the content of Holford’s health advice and sales pitches for home tests and the evidence base for supplements. These errors are all the more dispiriting when one recalls that he was corrected about some of them more than two years ago. We don’t mean differences of opinion, we mean verifiable, checkable facts. When Holford persuades people to rely upon his opinion and lend credence to it because he undertakes to do the scientific research and interpret it for them then it seems inappropriate to claim that more people died, prematurely, from a specific cause than actually died, prematurely, from all causes. Continue reading

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British Chiropractic Association (BCA) demonstrate what evidence-based medicine isn’t

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) are currently suing Simon Singh for stating, among other things, that the

British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence

The BCA have now – somewhat belated – summarised [PDF] the evidence which they feel relates to the article and the use of chiropractic treatment for various childhood illnesses. Other bloggers are assessing various aspects of this evidence – we’ll consider what might constitute good evidence in this context.

It was interesting to see the BCA quote Sackett et al on “Evidence based medicine [EBM]: what it is and what it isn’t”. They summarise (p. 7) the paper’s conclusion as

Evidence based medicine is about integrating individual clinical expertise and the best external evidence

However, while they might orientate themselves towards EBM, this PDF from the BCA provides a nice example of what EBM isn’t Continue reading

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How To Compile an Affordable Diet that Includes Recommended Vitamins and Minerals

Washington Post carries a thought-provoking and slightly depressing article: Even a Dietitian Can Find It Hard to Craft a Diet That Covers All the Bases. Essentially, even a very experienced Registered Dietitian found it difficult to design a diet that met all the dietary guidelines within 1800 calories (day’s menu for a hypothetical 35-year-old, 5-foot-4-inch woman who weighs 130 pounds and exercises three times a week) and that isn’t taking issues such as affordability into account. Continue reading

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What Prevents People From Eating a Healthier Diet?

I’ve been wondering what it is that so irritating about a certain type of food and health writer, the sort that moralises and pontificates about the food that the population should be eating. Media-hyped examples would be Gillian McKeith and her Abundant Foods list that includes vinegars and Tamari (who considers them to be food rather than ingredients?), or Patrick Holford and his low GL recommendations that can involve about £9 worth of berries per person, per day. Holford claims that people who are optimally nourished don’t become ill and don’t need medicine.

McKeith and Holford both stress that people should eat organic fruit, vegetables, meat or eggs.  Given that they target a comparatively affluent market demographic and recommend a diet that is studded with supplements, it is possibly irrelevant to them that this is neither affordable nor sustainable for much of the population. Continue reading

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The “Green Party Drugs Group website is being updated” following critical HolfordWatch post

Yesterday, I posted criticisms of suggestions for supplement usage on the Green Party of England and Wales Drug Group’s website. Later on that day, I noticed that the pages I criticised were inaccessible. This website now states that

The Green Party Drugs Group website is being updated.

There are – as far as I can see – now no suggestions re supplement usage. Instead, the site just reports Green Party drug policy. I have no idea whether my post played any role in this, or whether the timing was coincidental.

I am, anyway, pleased to see that various unfortunate suggestions and claims have been removed from the Green Party website. Hopefully, they will now be able to lay out and advocate an evidence-based approach to harm reduction and drug policy.

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Green Party: the supplement suggestions don’t work

UPDATE: There have been significant changes to the Green Party Drug Group’s site following this post, as discussed here. Lots of links in this post are therefore broken. If you would like to see an earlier version of the site (similar to what I blogged about) you can look on archive.org.

When blogging about the Green Party of England and Wales’ health policy, we were accused of “quoting selectively” and “out of context”. I have therefore been looking over health-related aspects of Green policy more closely: in order to offer a broader view. One thing that stood out was their suggestion of various supplements to counteract some of the negative effects of recreational drug use, despite limited evidence for the supplements’ efficacy.

There are certainly evidence-based arguments in favour of the Green aim

to take the drug trade out of criminal control and [make] available in a legal environment

However, it is important to remember that recreational drug use (legal or illegal) comes with certain risks. An important aspect of a harm reduction approach to drug policy is that it works to accurately assess the risks and harms involved. Recommending pills which have not been shown to be effective, in order to treat some of the side effects of drug use, is not helpful. Continue reading

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