Category Archives: depression

UPDATED: Observer plugs fish oil for concentration, ADHD and depression

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


Filed under ADHD, depression, fish

Daily Mail and Its Frame of a Recent Homocysteine and Depression Study

Daily Mail regularly displays a remarkable similarity to the public writings of Visiting Professor Patrick Holford. It has taken time out from its usual project of dividing substances into things that will give you cancer or cure it, or similarly for diabetes to digress into the Holford obsession with over-claiming for the significance of homocysteine levels and the outcome of manipulating them. In a recent round-up, Daily Mail declared Vitamin B can beat ‘old age blues’. A little confusingly, the accompanying photograph is that of an attractive, well-turned out woman in her late 20s/early 30s or so. It’s distracting because the study was carried out in men over the age of 70. Continue reading


Filed under depression, patrick holford, supplements, vitamins

Patrick Holford and His Alternative to Anti-Depressants

Professor Patrick Holford has a remarkably agile PR team with helpful lacunae in their collective memories. 27.02.2007, Holford’s email subscribers received an email, What’s the alternative to ineffective anti-depressants? Continue reading


Filed under chromium, depression, Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, GL diet, glycaemic load, glycemic load, Goldacre, health, Holford, Mental Health, nutrition, patrick holford, supplements

Fishy business in The Times: would this have got past them if they were eating enough oily fish?

The Times had an article today on Food for Thought. Lots of decent stuff here: they quote a proper dietitian and everything. Sadly, though, they also use Holford as an expert commentator. Fay Schopen writes that:

Patrick Holford, the author of several books on nutrition and a visiting professor at the University of Teesside, says that there is good evidence for some supplements, especially omega-3. “It’s hard to do a randomised mackerel trial,” he points out, but he says that six studies have suggested that omega-3 supplements are effective in reducing depression, details of which can be found on his Food for the Brain website. “There’s an ever-increasing incidence of mental health problems in the workplace,” he says, pointing to stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia and memory decline. “Our world has speeded up immensely with the internet and e-mails, and we have to process much more information, I believe part of the reason for mental health problems is that we need much better nutrition.”

On the plus side, hopefully this means that The Times have realised that calling Holford a ‘nutritionist’ does not mean much. However, I’m still not sure that “the author of several books on nutrition” is a good descriptor for Holford: given the significant amounts of money he has made from the supplement industry, perhaps something like ‘nutritional entrepeneur’ would be more fitting.

Of course, if Holford provided good quality evidence for his claims, I wouldn’t particularly mind about his competing financial interests. Sadly, he doesn’t. Holford states that “six studies have suggested that omega-3 supplements are effective in reducing depression, details of which can be found on his Food for the Brain website”. Sounds fair enough – and, of course, in a quality paper like The Times a journalist would always check this type of thing, right? They would, wouldn’t they…?

Well, apparently not. Being picky about these things, I looked at ‘the evidence‘ on the Food for the Brain (FFTB) website. It listed twenty studies. Sounds good, doesn’t it – even better than the six Holford mentioned. Well, it would be good – except only two of these twenty studies focus on omega 3 fats and depression. One might also note that one of these studies focuses on bipolar depression – and results therefore may not map well across to typical depression. Continue reading


Filed under depression, Food for the brain, omega 3, patrick holford, The Times

Patrick Holford and His Insights on the Scourge of Depression

Patrick Holford provides remarkable insights that are worth every penny of the subscription that people purchase for their own enlightenment and that of others. In the May 2007 newsletter, we learn this nugget of wisdom that will stand you in great stead, the next time that you are dithering in the supermarket.

There’s poor logic in treating diet and lifestyle-related diseases, like breast cancer and heart disease, primarily with drugs that block some enzyme in the body, thus usually creating side-effects. It makes much more sense to correct the factors that led to your body or mind going out of balance in the first place. For example, omega 3 deficiency can cause depression. Prozac deficiency does not. [My emphasis.]

So, if you were wondering how best to spend the household budget, sardines rather than Prozac: or sardines and Prozac if your GP prescribed it and economise elsewhere. The gnomic poignancy of Holford’s insights is hard to beat. There are no prizes, but I would welcome suggestions that encapsulate more of these profound observations:

X deficiency can cause something nasty. Y deficiency does not.


Filed under depression, Holford, newsletter, omega 3, patrick holford, Prozac