When discussing “why you crave sugar the way you do” with East Coast Radio in South Africa, Patrick Holford blames “ignorance” as the main cause of ill health. There are a number of issues here:
- I remain unconvinced that Holford’s work on topics such as nutrition or HIV has helped to improve the knowledge of the general public.
- In his discussion with East Coast Radio, Holford draws extensive conclusions (on issues including causal relationships) from a survey of 60,000 people; I would also have concerns re the design of the survey. This suggests a problematic understanding of research design and interpretation.
- I am unconvinced that ignorance is the main cause of ill health. Issues around poverty, inequality, addiction, disease and access to appropriate treatments all play significant roles. Even if people know for example that smoking is bad for them, this will – sadly – not be sufficient to enable them to stop.
There are currently serious health problems in South Africa. Rolling out Holford’s ‘100% health’ ideas – as a supposed solution to the dangers of ignorance – would not be an appropriate solution.
Evidence-based social policies to target inequality, poverty and access to healthcare all have important roles to play in South Africa. ‘Alternative’ nutritionism marketed by British media nutritionists would not be a helpful import.