I was surprised to see the usually excellent Guardian Science tweeting that “Fish oil helps schoolchildren to concentrate”. This linked to Denis Campbell’s Observer article, reporting that
Fish oil helps schoolchildren to concentrate
US academics discover high doses of omega-3 fish oil combat hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder
Children can learn better at school by taking omega-3 fish oil supplements which boost their concentration, scientists say.
Boys aged eight to 11 who were given doses once or twice a day of docosahexaenoic acid, an essential fatty acid known as DHA, showed big improvements in their performance during tasks involving attention.
Dr Robert McNamara, of the University of Cincinnati, who led the team of American researchers, said their findings could help pupils to study more effectively and potentially help to tackle both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.
Unfortunately, the Observer’s claims about fish oil are not evidence-based. Continue reading
Looking at the Wikipedia page for Dore, we were interested to note that IP address 22.214.171.124 was associated with a number of edits to this page. Some of these changes – such as a 31/12/09 edit – seem to make the Wikipedia page more positive about the Dore treatment. Whois information links this IP to a Dave Harris. By a pure coincidence, I’m sure, a Dave Harris happens to be Dore’s Senior Systems Engineer.
I do like wikipedia.
I was delighted to see that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint of mine about Dore’s advertising. I complained about an advert referring to “help with Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia or Asperger’s”. The ASA has reviewed the evidence Dore submitted to support their claims, and found that:
the evidence was inadequate to support claims to treat those [Aspergers Syndrome and dyspraxia]. With regards to dyslexia and ADHD, we did not consider that the studies were sufficiently robust to support the treatment claims for those conditions, and we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies).
I am delighted that the ASA has made such a firm ruling. Continue reading
ITV Yorkshire chose to dedicate over two minutes of their 6pm news bulletin today to an uncritical plug for the Dore treatment for learning difficulties.* The lack of good evidence that the Dore programme works – and the fact that Dore UK went into administration last year – were not enough to prevent them from doing so.
Joanna – a dyslexic Dore client – is introduced as someone whose life was “transformed” by “a special programme designed to help stimulate the part of the brain that stimulates learning”. This type of position is maintained throughout the segment, but there are a number of problems with it:
- Whatever Dore is designed to do, there is no good evidence that it works.
- Dore aims to stimulate the cerebellum. This region of the brain appears to play a role in learning, but so do others. There is no one ‘part of the brain that stimulates learning’.
Joanna was on the Dore programme for two years, and has clearly made good progress over those two years. However, people with learning difficulties do develop and progress, even without treatment: there is no way of knowing whether or not Dore was responsible for her progress.
These are all pretty obvious points, but the news segment did not have anyone presenting this point of view or explaining about evidence-based treatments for learning difficulties. Indeed – rather than referring interested viewers to reliable charities such as the British Dyslexia Association – the segment ends with a link to Dore UK’s website displayed on the screen (and read out by the presenter).
A final concern is the negative approach to learning difficulties outlined in the ITV segment. Joanna’s dyslexia is said to have affected her chances of “leading a normal, independent life”. Dyslexic people – even quite severely dyslexic – can and do live independent lives.** Especially as there is not good evidence that Dore cures dyslexia, it is highly irresponsible to present such a negative view of the life chances of dyslexics. Continue reading
Sigh. John Hopkins in the Times has given Scott Quinnell substantial opportunity to plug the Dore treatment for specific learning difficulties (which Quinnell has now invested in). Quinnell is a former rugby international, and his current support of Dore does not change the fact that there is not good evidence that Dore works.
Quinnell states that
I want to help children and adults overcome dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, autism and Asperger’s…I want to be able to help people not to be what they were before.
If he does want to help people with learning difficulties, there are so many more things that he could do. Promoting expensive ‘miracle cures’ – without good evidence that they work – is not helpful. Neither is the negative approach of seeking to have people “not…be what they were before”.
Many people with learning difficulties develop extremely effective coping strategies (in the article, Quinnell says he is/was dyspraxic; nonetheless, he was able to do remarkably well at sport). Providing appropriate support for people with learning difficulties is much more valuable than promoting non-evidence-based miracle cures.
The Times does give brief mention to the criticisms of Dore. However, these are not given nearly enough weight: the fact that expert psychologists specialising in the field have been scathingly critical of Dore is rather more relevant than the fact that a former rugby international (with a financial interest in Dore) says it works. However, the focus of the article is very much on Quinnell’s views; Hopkins does not even both to include a quote from any of Dore’s critics.
One would hope that a responsible newspaper would offer more evidence-based coverage of learning difficulties. The Times itself has noted some of the problems caused when Dore went into liquidation: it should be aware that plugging such ‘miracle cures’ is not risk-free. I have previously argued that
‘miracle cure appears not to work’ stories are seen as far less newsworthy than ‘miracle cure saves children and cute fluffy bunnies’ stories
It also appears that ‘miracle cure endorsed by celeb’ stories may be more newsworthy than ‘miracle cure still doesn’t work’ stories. That is a pity.
I was interested to see this clip on YouTube: apparently broadcast 26/6/09*. The interviewer gives Scott Quinnell ample time to plug Dore for the treatment of dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism and Asperger Syndrome. There are a number of important issues that the segment fails to cover. Among other concerns:
– There is no mention of the lack of good evidence that Dore is effective, or the high cost of the programme.
– There is no mention that Dynevor, which now owns Dore, was established by Quinnell (the interviewer actually introduces Quinnell’s involvement in Dore as ‘charity work’, although Quinnell makes clear that Dore is a business).
– There is no mention that Dore UK went into administration last year (something that prospective clients might want to know about, before they hand over their money). Continue reading
HolfordWatch has just learned that Patrick Holford has resigned his post of Visiting Professor at Teesside; a call to Teesside confirms that the reception don’t have a record of any Professor Holford at the University. We don’t have any more details at the moment: we will post information as it arrives.
Clearly, this is good news: Holford does not produce professorial-standard work. We trust that Holford will update his CV ASAP, and that Teesside will soon put out a press release to clarify the situation. Continue reading
A short break from your usual Holford coverage to discuss some news about the Dore ‘cure’ for dyslexia, ADHD and a load of other things. Dorothy Bishop recently published a paper showing that the evidence for Dore as a treatment for dyslexia and ADHD is woefully inadequate (it’s also suggested as a treatment for ASDs). Lots of newspapers have ran lots of ‘positive’ stories about the Dore ‘cure’ – but they haven’t found time to cover Bishop’s scathing analysis of Dore research. This is a bad thing: if the media runs ‘positive’ stories about ‘miracle cures’ – but fails to run updates when they are shown to be neither cures nor miraculous – this could make it easier for expensive, unproven ‘cures’ to be sold to their readers. On 3/10/07, I therefore contacted the Guardian, Mail, Manchester Evening News, Times and Telegraph to make sure they knew about this new information. Not one of them even responded to my e-mails.
This took me quite a while to do: most people probably wouldn’t be as
obsessive determined to see this through as I was. I really thought that – by putting so much time into this – I would persuade at least some of the papers I spoke to to run the story. However – despite phoning and e-mailing all the papers below – the only response I’ve had is an ‘out of office’ autoreply Continue reading
The Dore programme is an interesting ‘cure’ for all kinds of things: as Dorothy Bishop puts it, “Dore Achievement Centres are springing up world-wide with a mission to cure cerebellar developmental delay, thought to be the cause of dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia and Asperger’s syndrome. Remarkable success is claimed for an exercise-based treatment that is designed to accelerate cerebellar development.” Sound great, doesn’t it. Except, as Bishop shows in a new journal article, this is not supported by good evidence and it is therefore the case that “the claims made for this expensive treatment are misleading”. While academic journals are normally pretty restrained, this is about as close as I’ve seen to a thoroughgoing fisking in a journal article: Dore, and their research, are really pwned here. Given that – according to Ben Goldacre in the Guardian – a course of Dore treatment costs around £1,700 (and takes a load of time) I’d want much better evidence of efficacy before splashing out.
Dore is certainly well-promoted. Google “Asperger’s Syndrome” and it brings up an advert for Dore’s “Proven Long Term Drug-Free Solution Relieving the Symptoms of Aspergers”. Google “dyspraxia” and an advert informs one about Dore offering a “Proven Long Term Drug-Free Solution Relieving the Symptoms of Dyspraxia”. Google “dyslexia” and an advert promotes Dore as a “Proven Drug-Free, Exercise Based Dyslexia Remedy”. As a slick Dore promotional DVD puts it: “Now Dore Centres are able to offer real hope to those in despair” due to suffering from ‘learning disorders’. This includes Asperger’s Syndrome, which Dore’s UK site describes as “a problem associated with poor social behaviour.” Dore is apparently “suitable for those with high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism” (are any alternative treatments nowadays not marketed as suitable for people on the autistic spectrum?).
This marketing might make Dore seem appealing. Bishop notes that, “Although most of the promotion of the treatment is based on personal testimonials, these are backed up by research. Dore pointed to a study showing that treatment led to a nearly fivefold improvement in comprehension, a threefold improvement in reading age, and a 17-fold improvement in writing.” Sounds good, right? But the quality of the research was pretty dismal. Continue reading
Skeptic’s Circle #65 is now up at the excellent Neurologica blog. This circle is taking place in a museum, with Steven Novella serving as your knowledgeable guide. “The room was filled with that odd combination of excitement, interest and restlessness that accompanies children forced to walk through a museum”, but there was plenty to hold their attention.
Holford Watch is delighted to see that Patrick Holford is now getting the attention that he deserves: Novella has announced that Holford is “so busy cranking out the pseudoscience he gets his own display.” However, I don’t see visitors spending all that long watching Holford’s display – there are many more interesting things in the museum. Continue reading