Category Archives: Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs

Jerome Burne and Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy: Part 2

Jerome Burne is co-author of Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs (FIBMTD) with Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford. FIBMTD has a chapter on Balancing Hormones in the Menopause -The HRT scandal vs natural control: there is a brief discussion of “Natural progesterone – a safer way with hormones”.

Progesterone is given in amounts equivalent to that normally produced by a woman who is ovulating (between 20 and 40 mg a day) and, unlike oestrogen or synthetic progestins, it has no known cancer risk – in fact…quite the opposite. [pg. 167, the reference for this bold assertion is a self-help book, not a journal paper or similar, if you were curious. And, no, no specific page reference or indication that this is a study/trial, in vitro, in vivo or animal.]

Mid-May we noticed that Burne had left a long comment, recommending his own research, on a post about The Alternative that Isn’t: Bioidentical Hormones at Science-Based Pharmacy. Gazing into our crystal ball, we anticipated that a Burne special on the topic must be in progress and so were not surprised to read today’s Should middle-aged women be taking natural HRT? in the Daily Mail. The shorthand version of the remainder of this post is:

No. Not if you are relying upon the Holftorf review to provide a comprehensive overview of the relevant evidence on efficacy and safety.

Continue reading


Filed under Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, Jerome Burne, patrick holford

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

The Scotsman reproduces a Standard article – correcting its ‘Dr Holford’ error, but still with lots of dubious claims

Bella Blisset previously ran a pretty dismal article on nutrition in the Evening Standard (9/10/07, p. 41) – pretty much reproducing some of Holford’s claims that food is better medicine than drugs, without allowing any experts in evidence-based nutrition and medicine to challenge his – often dubious – claims. To make things worse, the article referred to “Dr Patrick Holford, the UK’s top nutritionist” (Holford does not have a PhD). Depressingly, another version of this article has been carried by the Scotsman – with the main change being that it now refers to “Patrick Holford, the UK’s best-known nutritionist”. The article is , however, still riddled with dubious claims. You can leave your comments on the Scotsman article here, or contact the paper with your views.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not impressed with the article. Continue reading


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Patrick Holford and the Goldacre Law of BS Dynamics

Patrick Holford adopts a certain triumphalist tone when praising the academic and scientific gravitas of Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs:

Every single section, on arthritis, on diabetes, hormonal imbalance, depression, attention deficit, etc. Every single chapter was checked by a professor who specialised in that area.

For reasons we’ve previously explained, Holford Watch begs leave to express polite disbelief about this claim. Continue reading

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Filed under Ben Goldacre, Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, Holford, Jerome Burne, nervology, patrick holford

Patrick Holford and his Cadre of Reviewers for Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs

Patrick Holford makes many interesting claims during a promotional segment for Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs on The Late Late Show.

Timestamp on video: 20:00 The Late Late Show, RTE Television. 3 November 2006

Patrick Holford: Every single section, on arthritis, on diabetes, hormonal imbalance, depression, attention deficit, etc. Every single chapter was checked by a professor who specialised in that area.

This means that somewhere, some cardiovascular/cardiology expert signed-off on the Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs claim that the Number Needed to Treat for statins is 19,600. It would be fascinating to know the identity of this un-named reviewer, particularly as that claim was so outlandish that it was obvious to anyone else less than half a second after it hit the eyeball. And it only took that long because the eyeball was still fluttering with unfocused outrage at having been subjected to such nonsense.

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Filed under Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, Holford, nervology, patrick holford

Patrick Holford and His Tap-Dancing on the Late Late Show

Patrick Holford the international bowel-whisperer and supplement entrepreneur is familiar to us. Prepare to be dazzled by Patrick Holford the tap-dancer as he delivers a very partial account both of the training of nutritionists and the status of his own nutritional qualifications in a bravura performance on RTE’s The Late Late Show.

Patrick Holford had a 20 minute slot to promote Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs on the Late Late Show (watch the video). As with the recent encounter Patrick Holford v. Dr. Sarah Jarvis smackdown on GMTV (partial transcript and commentary), Holford came up against one of those splendidly feisty women GPs who have embraced the right to speak their minds plainly in fine contradistinction to anything that their mothers might have tried to instill into them regarding that stifling social convention, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.

Discussions on the Late Late Show tend to be conducted in the seductively attractive cadences of well-read Hibernians and are both entertaining and soothing even if you have no interest in the subject-matter. Read remainder of entry


Filed under Emer Keeling, Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, Holford, Pat Kenny, patrick holford

Patrick Holford gives the British Dietetic Association the benefit of his high quality research on autism

As Dr Crippen notes, Patrick Holford has taken it upon himself to educate the British Dietetic Association (BDA) on the benefits of dietary interventions for autism. On this blog, Shinga has also analysed Holford’s wisdom on this issue. I’m also going to look over some of Patrick Holford‘s ‘evidence’ base on this.

If you’re going to take it on yourself to lecture a learned body like the BDA, you had better make sure your research stands up to scrutiny. Sadly, the ‘evidence’ that Holford provides for a gluten free casein free (GFCF) diet to treat autism doesn’t stand up to even cursory scrutiny.

Holford’s first piece of autism-specific evidence is a link to Robert Cade’s work. Unlike in other Holford work, the link works this time – I suppose one should give Holford some credit for this. However, he doesn’t get any credit for the quality of this ‘evidence’. Read remainder of entry


Filed under BDA, catherine collins, Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, Jerome Burne, patrick holford

Statins and Why Patrick Holford Is Breaking My Heart: Part 2

Patrick Holford regularly accuses scientists, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry of withholding or distorting research findings. In a promotional video for Food is Better Medicine than Drugs Holford casts himself and co-author Jerome Burne as Woodward and Bernstein figures battling against omnipotent forces. Holford espouses a belief in:

full spectrum dominance. [The pharmaceutical industry] literally influence the researchers, the journals, the doctors…So the information we get just simply isn’t the truth.

I’ve spent the last year with top, award-winning, medical journalist Jerome Burne, exposing the truth about the pharmaceutical industry…

We’ve…found that about 20% of drug prescriptions are given to patients for whom there is no evidence that it works at all. For example, statin drugs, designed to lower cholesterol. Almost 20,000 people have to take a statin for 5 years for one less heart attack-that is, if you haven’t already had a heart attack.

Scary stuff. Continue reading


Filed under Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, heart attack, Jerome Burne, NNT, number needed to treat, patrick holford, statins, supplements

Statins and Why Patrick Holford Is Breaking My Heart: Part 1

I don’t expect much of Patrick Holford. I thought that he was good for a little light relief, the occasional surge in blood pressure, a claim here, a statement there, that provokes a roll of the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders. I could never have anticipated that he would leave me goggling with disbelief and speechless. Ironically, it felt as if my heart had skipped a beat or two.

I accepted Amazon’s offer to watch a video clip and Meet the Author of Food is Better Medicine than Drugs. There was the usual riff on “Pharma Bad, Dolphins Good“. Continue reading


Filed under Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, heart attack, Jerome Burne, NNT, number needed to treat, patrick holford, statins, supplements

Do Superfoods Have Super Powers or Is It Marketing Hype?

Sadly, super has no legal definition when used to market foodstuffs. Superfoods do not have to give us super powers. We’re just expected to accept widespread assertions that they are overflowing with standard and special nutrients that confer energy, increase sexual potency, improve cognitive skills and protect us against diseases such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and even cancer.

Where there is an extraordinary nutritional or medical claim is being made for a food, then Patrick Holford is likely to be part of the chorus, and he is. You can read about Superfoods on Holford’s own site or in his co-authored book, Food Is Better Medicine than Drugs.

Today’s Observer carries an interesting article that debunks many of the claims for superfoods and questions whether they provide nutrients that can’t be obtained from more readily available and cheaper foodstuffs: Forget superfoods, you can’t beat an apple a day.

Several experts explain that basic science shows that some claims about superfoods can not be proved, and any specific benefits may not be available to everyone who eats them. The redoutable Catherine Collins, chief dietitian at St. George’s Hospital in London, offers a helpful synopsis of the issues:

‘There are so many wrong ideas about superfoods that I don’t know where best to begin to dismantle the whole concept.’

Just because certain foods are bursting with a particular vitamin or nutrient does not mean they will be especially good for you, Collins said. ‘It might seem that eating foods rich in nutrients is just common sense, but the truth is that our bodies have a requirement for sufficient nutrients,’ she added.

‘If our bodies have an excess of nutrients and cannot store them, they will essentially go to waste. Or, more worryingly, if certain nutrients can’t be excreted in sufficient levels, they could cause serious cellular damage. Overloading our bodies is not a healthy or natural thing to do.’

Not only is there no scientific definition of a superfood, but the concept itself could be harmful. ‘Nominating some foods as nutritional talismans gives the impression that ordinary, affordable and everyday foods are somehow deficient,’ she said. ‘But rather than spend £5 on a small punnet of exotic berries, a family would be better off buying regular and larger quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables from their local market.

‘On a restricted budget, it is even more important to ignore dubious, expensive products in the belief you can take short cuts to a good diet. Rather than buying some ridiculous African algae, with all the CO2 emissions associated with travel, eating a cheap British apple would be better for the environment too.’

Berries, algae and wheatgrass make an appearance in Holford’s list of superfoods. There is a myth-busting section in which we learn how very Pooterish, rather than super, these foods are. E.g., despite the extravagant claims made for wheatgrass by its envangelists, its nutritional benefits are pitilessly compared to cheaper and more accessible foods:

The commonly held assumption that a 30ml shot of wheatgrass juice is nutritionally equivalent to a kilogram of vegetables is a complete myth. A floret or two of broccoli, or a tablespoon of spinach, contain more folic acid and vitamin C than 30ml of wheatgrass juice.

Overall, it looks as if berries, wheatgrass, algae and other superfoods thought to have remarkable super powers should give up looking for phone boxes. The powers of superfoods lie in their earning potential for marketeers and supermarkets rather than superior nutrition for consumers.


Filed under algae, berries, catherine collins, Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, patrick holford, superfoods, wheatgrass