BBC Radio Oxford broadcast an infomercial for Patrick Holford’s books and his commercial diet programme (transcript below). BBC i) did not invite any experts to discuss Holford’s diet or claims, ii) question whether the ‘free diet trial’ involved purchasing supplements or blood tests iii) ask for details of the ‘science’ that he claims supports his advice. Continue reading
Category Archives: glycemic load
Men’s Health has a good reputation so HolfordWatch was disappointed to come across: Shrink Wrapped: Strip fat with our precision engineered bangers and mash. The article is a good example of a dietary recommendation that is based on a reasonable premise but is badly communicated and promotes confusion. Continue reading
Patrick Holford has sent his latest email on weight-loss to our faithful reader, Precious Ramotswe. Mma Ramotswe has written to Holford Watch to ask for our advice.
Dear Holford Watch,
I am a traditionally-built lady, as you know. Most of the time, this is of great advantage to me (e.g., snakes know where I am and I can cast shade for small children), but I am subject to much advice on the topic of weight-loss. Patrick Holford has sent me an email about his eating programme. He exhorts me to “Be proud to be seen in [my] bikini this summer and switch to a low GL diet today”. I have looked through it but there is no mention of cake which makes me a little sad. However, it may be possible to put something together from oats and fruit, although that may make me sadder as it does not resemble cake. Continue reading
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
Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University (and also Head of Science and Education at Biocare) and Drew Fobbester are joint researchers and authors of the Food for the Brain Child Survey, September 2007 (pdf). This is the second of three Holford Watch posts in which we explain why the literature overview in the FFTB Child Survey is inadequate: some of the claims made in the review are not supported by relevant references or studies of sufficient quality. Part 1 discussed the claims relating to supplements and children’s diet. Part 2 examines the claims made for the benefit of a balanced glycaemic load diet for children.
Patrick Holford is promoting a new supplement, Cinnachrome, to support his GL Diet. He claims that it is “specifically designed to support natural blood sugar balance”. Cinnachrome sounds delightful, like something that could be used to spice an apple pie but there is little to indicate that it might be that useful. Continue reading
A colleague who watched the LK Today segment informs me that Dr. Sarah Jarvis “thoroughly pwned” Patrick Holford. A nephew with a fondness for WWWF expressed the opinion that it was “a total smackdown”. It was livelier than the usual health coverage that one might expect to see on breakfast television. You might have your own opinion.
This is Diabetes Week in the UK and there has been a disproportionate amount of coverage about diets that claim to reverse diabetes rather than the story that Diabetes UK probably want to promote, which is the importance of recognising early symptoms and obtaining a diagnosis in a timely manner and their campaign for the provision of insulin pumps on the NHS.
Kyra Bransom had previously been diagnosed as borderline diabetic in 2004 but more recently received a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Apparently, GMTV asked Patrick Holford to work with Kyra. Unfortunately, Kyra’s story was presented badly and it was difficult to reconcile the details and timeline as she presented them with the glowing account that Holford gave in: How Kyra Gained Health and Lost Weight.
June 13 2007, LK Today: Lorraine Kelly (LK) interviewed Kyra Bransom (KB), Patrick Holford (PH), and diabetes expert, Dr. Sarah Jarvis (SJ). The following is a partial transcript of that segment compiled from several sources: any transcription errors are mine. The piece started with two video segments and concluded with a studio discussion.
Video segment from May 2007: KB discussed some of her medical history; at a comparatively young age, she had developed ‘borderline diabetes’ but had been unable to make substantial lifestyle changes to correct this (according to Holford’s account). In 2004 she had started to experience various symptoms that led her to consult her GP.
KB: The doctor decided she was going to give me some blood tests, just routine, to see what was happening. It came back that I was borderline diabetic.
My initial reaction was one of shock…you think it will never happen to you.
After starting my medication, my fuzzyheadedness cleared up pretty much straight away. I did feel better within myself but I felt well that I was well because I was on medication. I wasn’t well because of the way that I was eating, especially.
It seems that sometime between the diagnosis of diabetes Type 2 (not well explained) and the time KB had her initial consultation with Holford, she had already managed to lose 14lbs and experienced some improvement with Metformin.
Video segment from June 2007: KB in various locations
KB: After four weeks of being on Patrick’s diet I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in my skin, my concentration is back fully, I don’t have bloatedness, I don’t have indigestion any more. I’ve a completely clear head and I’ve also managed to halve my Metformin.
In the quieter moments, I do still get a bit scared that I have diabetes but I am determined to turn this into a positive situation one way or another.
End of video segments; move to studio with LK, KB, PH and SJ.
LK discusses the GL-diet with KB and asks her how easy she found it to follow and whether or not she felt that she could stay on it for the remainder of her life.
LK: In your experience, do you think it’s helped your diabetes?
KB: My blood glucose results kind of speak for themselves, really; I mean it’s healthy and it’s under control which is fantastic.
LK: What’s really good is [that] you’re taking control of your illness, it’s not taking control of you. You’re actually doing something for yourself instead of just getting medication and taking it-which is fine, of course, you must do that-but at the same time you’re able to change what’s happened to you and that’s really good.
LK turns to PH to ask him to explain the improvement in KB‘s condition. PH gives the eminently useful public health diabetes message about eating wholefoods “that release their sugar content slowly”.
PH: Having things like oats for breakfast is very good. Oatcakes, anything with oats is fantastic. Fruit is good for you but you need to be selective. So, berries, plums, apples, they’re good.
Eating protein with carbohydrate. So, if you have rice, you have fish. If you have potatoes, you have meat. And, ideally, a little less potatoes, a little less rice. And, that’s part of it.
This was pretty much the whole of the 30 seconds-long discussion about the details of the eating programme before PH made a rapid segue onto supplements.
The other part is there’s a mineral called chromium that a lot of us don’t get enough of, and diabetics, in particular, if they supplement more chromium, that helps control blood sugar, and so too, does cinammon. So the combination of a low-GL diet, plus some cinnamon and chromium tends to make a big difference.
In Kyra’s case, her blood sugar has gone from 11, above 7 is a diabetes risk, and she’s now down to about 5.4. It’s really dropped a lot.
LK checks with KB about whether or not she is still taking medication. KB confirms that she has followed her consultant’s guidelines and no longer takes Metformin. LK turns to a slightly-flushed Dr. Sarah Jarvis who has been containing herself admirably until now, particularly in light of the fact that she in the same shot as a number of bottles of supplements on the table, one of which (at least) is distinctive enough to recognise from Holford’s own supplement distribution company.
SJ: It’s basically commonsense. All apart from the supplements which I’m afraid are complete nonsense. The diet itself is something we’ve known about for decades. In fact there’s a diet called the Portfolio Diet which is very commonly used over in America. [About a third of] people can reduce their cholesterol by about 20% over the course of a year, another third of people can reduce it by about 15% and another third reduce it by about 10%.
What do they do? It’s commonsense. It’s a mediterranean diet. You eat normal mediterranean-style food. You eat fish, including oily fish so you get the Omega 3s. You eat lots of fruit and vegetable and unrefined carbohydrate. You eat oats, which are good for your cholesterol, and they’re absorbed relatively slowly.
It’s all absolute commonsense, apart from the chromium and the vitamin supplements which are nonsense.
LK: But can…[people get what they need from food?]
SJ: [People are] getting what they need from their diet and not from expensive supplements.
PH: I have to say this is wrong because-this is a paper that just came out-15 studies on chromium supplements at a level that you will not eat. And 13 of those 15 studies show that it helps diabetics.
I totally agree the diet is important. Eh – but what’s really being ignored is the proper randomised controlled trials that are showing additional chromium…
What was the point of bringing along a print-out that was not shown to the audience? Did PH seriously think that SJ would not be aware of that meta-analysis? It is a trifle unwise to imply that a medically-qualified doctor who has published a well-received guide in this area is ignoring clinical evidence. It is particularly unwise to do this when your articulate, well-informed disputant is riled, albeit in a measured and entertaining way. SJ’s body language is a joy to watch throughout and will probably be training material for a communication seminar at some point.
LK: Sarah’s not convinced.
SJ: No, I’m absolutely not. Those studies were completely flawed – as were the ones on cinnamon. The point is that if you do the right things…Well, there’s absolute evidence for [the commonsense advice on diet]…
There are thousands of consultants and doctors across the country who know that [diabetes will improve] if you improve your diet-and God knows, I wish people would!
You said 2.2 million people in this country have got diabetes. 2.2 million people have been diagnosed, another million have got [diabetes] and don’t know about it.
The sort of symptoms that we’re talking about are being an apple rather than a pear [gestures to midriff to indicate that she is talking about starting to pack on fat around the abdomen and waist]; is getting minor infections; is needing to wee more often. Maybe losing weight…so, of course, people think they’re doing well, but, in fact, it’s because they’re beginning to develop diabetes.
Now, if you can lose 10% of your body weight, you can cut your total cholesterol by 10%, you can cut your bad cholesterol by 15%, and you will halve your average blood sugar.
SJ is arguing that KB‘s improvements in her blood work etc. can be attributed to her loss of more than 40lbs in weight rather than the supplement programme.
LK: So, it’s a commonsense diet.
SJ: Absolutely commonsense.
LK: Because diabetes is a huge problem now, isn’t it?
SJ: It’s a vast problem. And I think that it is desperately dangerous that people like Patrick [Holford] with no medical qualifications at all are telling people like Kyra that they have cured their diabetes. They absolutely haven’t.
This was a very interesting point. Despite PH‘s frequent claims that GPs and other healthcare professionals rarely consider lifestyle modification when working with people with chronic diseases, Dr. Crippen recently posed a similar question about one of his patients. If a patient changes his lifestyle, loses a considerable amount of weight, has blood work that is within acceptable norms, and takes no medication, Is the patient still diabetic? (Monday entry).
LK: So, would you say, “Don’t go off your medication”? So, if you’ve got diabetes now, and start eating in a healthier way and you start this diet, you must still be on your medication?
SJ: No. There’s no need to stay on your medication, but you do need to take the standard precautions. [E.g., keep monitoring your blood sugar and adjust your medication according to the guidelines you’ve been given.] You don’t need to take blood sugar lowering medication.
But what you need to bear in mind is that at least half the people with diabetes, I’m afraid, Kyra, have already got evidence of complications by the time they’re diagnosed. Because these symptoms are so slow, because they take a long time to come on.
The figures that Patrick’s given aren’t even correct. He had to ask me about them earlier on because he didn’t know what they were.
PH: This is…
SJ: So, I think that we need to bear in mind…there is a huge amount of medical research…
PH: Would you diagnose Kyra, whose blood sugar is now 5.4, [who] has no symptoms. Would you diagnose her with diabetes?
SJ: I wouldn’t diagnose her anew. But the point is that if I looked, for instance, for evidence of complications, if you do studies looking at the back of people’s eyes and so on, we know that at least 50% of people who’ve got diabetes have already got complications by the time they’re diagnosed.
I wouldn’t diagnose her from her blood sugar. But I would be able to diagnose her by looking in her eyes, by checking her kidneys and so on…
PH: So, something‘s made a big difference. You think it’s only the diet. But the point is she [Kyra] is better and how much weight have you [Kyra] lost?
KB: Since February, I’ve lost three stones.
SJ is emphasising again that KB‘s blood work improvements are within bounds for what is to be expected with that level of weight loss according to the clinical literature and the experience of doctors who specialise in diabetes care. It would have been interesting if PH had been asked to assign a relative importance to the eating programme and the supplements in his version of diabetes management.
KB: I had them checked-all-my eyes and kidneys-I had them all checked out. I’m absolutely fine.
SJ: And there’s every reason to believe that if you stay at this level, you won’t get the complications. When you keep your blood sugar to below pre-diabetes levels, you stop the microvascular complications, the blindness and so on from progressing.
LK: We’ll put all of this onto our website because it is absolutely fascinating.
Kudos to Lorraine Kelly who kept her equanimity throughout what was an occasionally fraught segment. It will be fascinating to see what makes it onto the GMTV website. Will it be pre-prepared text about Holford’s diet and supplements, or will it reflect Dr. Jarvis’ commonsense recommendation of a mediterranean diet for people with diabetes and her emphatic dismissal of the purported benefit of supplements?
Edited: 21:30, June 13. The pusillanimous, lily-livered milquetoasts at GMTV have posted material that is taken directly from Patrick Holford’s websites and not included any of Dr. Jarvis’ comments or her objections to the claims that are made for the supplements.
I think that it is desperately dangerous that people like Patrick [Holford] with no medical qualifications at all are telling people like Kyra that they have cured their diabetes.
[Dr. Sarah Jarvis, appearing with Patrick Holford on GMTV, June 13, to discuss diabetes management. Partial transcript and commentary available.]
Patrick Holford is not modest about his claims for diabetes management: he even claims that he knows how to reverse diabetes type 2. It’s Diabetes Week in the UK and Patrick Holford obviously had high hopes for promoting his diabetes management programme and the Holford Low-GL Diet on today’s segment on LK Today. His web page promised:
Can you reverse diabetes with diet?
As featured on GMTV
Diabetes currently effects 2 million people in the UK and is a growing concern.
Patrick Holford will be discussing important and highly effective alternative nutrition approaches to prevent and reverse this life threatening condition. [Please take the [sic] as read for the errors.]
Less “as featured” and more “as subjected to some light scrutiny that it did not withstand even for a few minutes once Dr. Jarvis was free to express herself”.
It is noteworthy that the Holford websites had modified their front pages in anticipation of the programme, e.g., Patrick Holford:
Featured on GMTV
If you watched Patrick on GMTV this morning and would like to find out more about his recommendations to combat diabetes go to http://www.patrickholford.com/diabetes
Holford’s Health Products for Life site carried new promotions for his New! GL Support and New! Cinnachrome. For reasons that I can’t fathom, Holford was allowed to display several bottles of supplements on the table and they were in view for some of the time, and at least one was clearly identifiable as his own formulation that is newly promoted, as above.
Of course, by the time that Dr. Sarah Jarvis, co-author of Diabetes for Dummies: UK Edition, presented her robust opinion of Holford’s supplements, you may or may not be eager to find out more about Holford’s recommendations to combat diabetes.
Dr. Jarvis emphasised that a mediterranean-style diet is endlessly recommended by people involved in diabetes management. Jarvis expressed herself with some verve:
It’s basically commonsense. All apart from the supplements which I’m afraid are complete nonsense. The diet is something we’ve known about for decades.
There will be more detail about the supplements in subsequent posts. It was heartening to see supplements and their purported benefits being treated so robusly on UK television; it is too rare a sight. It is the more important that this should be done for such a common, chronic condition like diabetes type 2
Holford tried to imply that Jarvis and other diabetes health professionals were ignoring the value of supplements and proferred a paper with an overview of chromium studies (sadly, he didn’t identify it further). But we at Holford Watch are not deterred by details such as that, we shall locate and assess this paper.
All in all, Patrick Holford v. Dr. Sarah Jarvis in the Arena of Diabetes Management looked like a knockout win for Jarvis and a small victory for commonsense. Given some of Holford’s fauxrious articles and emails after previous events, e.g., Watchdog, it will be interesting to watch his response to this item.