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