Holford demonstrates why online health advice can be problematic

Patrick Holford has made clear his opinions on vitamin C and swine flu (we have already discussed an earlier version of his post, and I don’t know that there is much else to add). However, I was interested to not some of the user comments now on this post, and Holford’s responses. Giving health advice online is always problematic, and Holford does a good job of demonstrating some of the pitfalls.

It is always problematic to give advice without a full – and competently taken – patient history, not something which can be done in blog comments. This issue comes to light when one woman asks in the comments:

I think I have swine flu with a terrible cough and phlegm. What do you recommend I eat and drink?

In such circumstances, one would have hoped that the commenter would have been advised to phone her GP’s surgery or another competent medical professional: a lot of things cause coughs; many (thankfully) heal fine without any intervention, but some will require medical treatment.

Perhaps most worrying, though, is advice relating to current product use. ‘Vix’ states that

I am trying to ensure that both of my sons (aged 2 and 9) are well prepared to battle the impending flu season. I currently give my eldest son 500mg of Vitamin C per day – along with Echinacea, 2 teaspoons of Sambucol and a teaspoon of Colloidal Silver. My youngest gets about the same. Is this enough? And is there a childrens Vitamin C powder that you can specifically recommend? I can’t seem to find one on the Totally Nourish website – only capsules.

Colloidal silver carries risks, but does not bring any benefits. Dosing varies between products, so it is quite possible that a 2 year old and 9 year old child could be getting significant doses of the stuff. I would have hoped that Vix would have been warned of the risks of the product and referred to a competent professional; at a minimum, one would have hoped that enquiries could have been made as to the doses used. However, Holford responds by stating that:

I am not sure that Echinacea is the right thing for swine flu during infection. RE vit C BioCare do a good value vit C powder. I don’t see it on the Totally Nourish website though. I’m sure they can get it for you if you ask. That, in some diluted juice, works best for children.

I do not think that Holford’s blog post is an appropriate setting to offer this type of advice. I also have concerns about some of the advice offered. I will therefore be sending a complaint off to BANT (Holford is a Fellow) this weekend; I hope that they take prompt, effective and transparent action on this issue.

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2 Comments

Filed under patrick holford, vitamin c

2 responses to “Holford demonstrates why online health advice can be problematic

  1. Pingback: BANT fail to reply to complaint from 25/10/09 « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  2. Pingback: BANT: A Profile « Stuff And Nonsense

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