Category Archives: mercury

Green Party Health Policy

In the light of recent political discontent, many voters may be looking afresh at their choices. Science Punk and The Lay Scientist have blogged for the Guardian about the science policies of various political parties, and Gimpy has blogged about the implications of their policies for research: I was disappointed to see how the Greens came out. However, on seeing their current manifesto on health policy, the Green Party’s Green Party of England and Wales’ credibility quickly disappeared.

A number of aspects of the manifesto are strikingly flawed, to the point of being offensive. Many people rely on the NHS – and for a serious party to come up with a health policy this bad is frankly insulting. Continue reading


Filed under Green Party, Green Party of England and Wales, mercury

Patrick Holford Advises You to Remove Mercury Fillings and Undergo Chelation But Is Still Silent About Andrew Wakefield?

Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford never fails to disappoint. The other day, I had noted that although he cleaves to his over-hyped enthusiasm for chromium supplements, the hyperbolic claims about cinnamon although still excessive were comparatively more nuanced than previous occasions – still wrong, but some useful nuance. I had hoped that this was the first green shoots of an improved approach to evidence.

However, Holford is now back to his usual form. He ignores the opportunity to update his advice for the ‘treatment’ of autism following the public revelations about the fraud and deliberate manipulation that irreperably taint Dr Andrew Wakefield and his research. He clutches instead for the topical subject of mercury fillings on Tonight with Trevor McDonald because it allows him to shill for his Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan. Patrick Holford displays no sense of taste or decorum – presumably he takes special supplements that confer the protection of a brass neck on him. Continue reading


Filed under Alzheimer's, Andrew Wakefield, chelation, heavy metal toxicity, mercury, nutrition, nutritionists, patrick holford, supplements

Patrick Holford Promotes Error: Does This Explain His Continuing Support for Opposing MMR and Supporting Andrew Wakefield’s Research?

Patrick Holford on ITV Lunchtime 16 April 2008
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford has such a sensitive moral barometer that he is constantly pointing out his perception of the failings of actual researchers and scientists and questioning their integrity. Operating in this parallel world that he does (see Part 1 and Part 2), perhaps it is not surprising that he continues to avoid issuing an update on what the findings from the Autism Omnibus and the stark revelations of the fraud and deliberate manipulation that underpins Dr Andrew Wakfield’s research means for his marketing and promotion of unevidenced diagnostic tests and diet strategies for the ‘treatment’ of autism (assessed here).

You may remember Patrick Holford’s keen support for Andrew Wakefield and his research (see, also, Patrick Holford and Andrew Wakefield’s Discredited Findings: Part 1 and Part 2). we have previously noted that Holford espouses support for Wakefield and his research allows some entrepreneurs to sell unevidenced diagnostic tests (both Wakefield and Holford continue to support the use of Secretin despite not only the absence of efficacy but the indication that it may be less efficacious than a saltwater placebo), promote consultation for difficult-to-follow diets and sell supplements. Continue reading


Filed under Andrew Wakefield, autism, autistic spectrum disorders, brian deer, gluten- and casein-free diet, heavy metal toxicity, IgG tests, immunization, measles, mercury, MMR, patrick holford, supplements, thimerosal, thiomersal, vaccination, vaccines, Wakefield

Independent article makes me SAD: Holford advises eating tuna or other fish 3 times a week, but what about the mercury?

CLARIFICATION: following an e-mail from Patrick Holford , we are pleased to note that he does not advise eating fish three times per day; it appears that this was an error in the newspaper article (now corrected in the online version).

The Independent appears to have responded to Private Eye’s criticism of their describing Holford as “one of the world’s leading authorities on new approaches to health and nutrition” by, um, giving Holford the opportunity to share his wisdom on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I’ve got a number of problems with this article. What jumped out at me first, though, was that – while Holford is normally willing (too willing, in my opinion) to warn about the dangers of mercury – in the Independent he advises that those concerned about SAD “eat tuna, mackerel, herring or salmon three times a week”. Because some tuna is relatively highly contaminated with mercury, someone who ate it thrice-weekly could well be above the FDA’s recommended maximum mercury consumption.

FDA recommendations for safe dietary mercury levels suggest that adults don’t eat more than 14oz/week of fish with an average of 0.5 ppm mercury (which includes some types of tuna). Children, and women who are or may become pregnant, are recommended to eat significantly lower levels of mercury. Now, these recommendations are precautionary – they have been criticised as over-cautious, and I sometimes eat more than this myself – but Holford could at least be consistent.

It is odd that Holford is apparently disturbed by the low levels of ethylmercury in vaccines – stating that “Tiny amounts of mercury have been shown to promote abnormal methylation” and recommending that tuna should only be eaten once per month due to its mercury content* – but suggests in the Independent that people consume tuna much more often. This is despite the fact that it can easily be the case that “a tuna sandwich contains…more mercury than a typical vaccine dose“. Continue reading


Filed under fish, Independent, mercury, patrick holford

Patrick Holford and Some Fishy Numbers

Patrick Holford has a problem with numbers. Sometimes, he cannot reproduce numbers accurately when they are laid out plainly, nor can he interpret them. However, there are times when his presentation of numbers is fishier than ever and this is causing some confusion. Some young readers have written to us.

Dear Holford Watch,

It was bad enough when we were being force-fed healthy-eating dogma during PSHE but now it is infesting our after-school clubs where we have to learn about nutrition with only brownie points on offer rather than the real thing.

We are tired of older people looking at us with crocodile tears in their eyes as they gloat that we will be the first generation to die before our parents. Then teachers set up projects where we have to review the research and data that assure us of our untimely deaths through toxic overload, pollution, Wi-Fi, too much food, too few nutrients etc. but certainly not a deficit of Prozac or Ritalin.

Last night we were advised to eat fish but to be careful because it contains toxins. We were told to look at a table of Omega-3 and mercury levels in different fish and to write a poem about how it made us feel. The table was quoted from a book by Patrick Holford so we were already a little suspicious. After all, Patrick Holford is the bowel-whisperer and doom-monger in residence for GMTV.

Chart of Omega-3 and mercury levels in fish: taken from pg. 101, New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind
Omega-3 g/100g

Mercury mg/kg


Fresh wild salmon




Canned sardines




Canned and smoked salmon




Fresh mackerel




Herring (kipper)








Fresh tuna








Fresh sole




Canned tuna












We couldn’t work out what the last column was supposed to tell us. The supervisor looked in the book but it didn’t say anything helpful. Then there was a fight because some people said that the numbers were wrong but when we asked the adults they did a nervous count on their fingers, giggled and changed the subject. Then they said that it is in a book that has been released in this new edition so it must be right.

Please help us.

Class 9, Erewhon School for the Jaded

Holford Watch is sympathetic to the plight of the young who are subjected to jeremiads about their health and bamboozled by adults who fail to understand the flaws in the basic science or maths of the ‘research’ that they thrust at them.

Dear Class 9,

We can understand why you are puzzled by the chart and we, too, find it annoying when we see a table without a legend to explain it. Before we address the errors in basic arithmetic, we recommend that you read Sandy at Junkfood Science who reassures us about the safety of fish despite the flip-flopping news headlines that are enough to frighten anyone into math hysteria.

There is no source given for the values that Holford quotes and some of his advice for fish consumption differs from that of the Food Standards Agency. Reading the text that precedes the chart, we learn that it:

lists fish in order of best to worst, in terms of the greatest amount of omega-3 with the lowest amount of mercury.

You were right to have misgivings about the numbers; what we have here is a failure to understand and convert units of measurement. The detail follows but we can only speculate that there are typos in the chart and errors in basic arithmetic.

The fresh wild salmon has 2.7 g/100g Omega-3, 0.05 mercury mg/kg but the 3rd column estimates that the ratio (or whatever that is supposed to be) is 54.0. Holford Watch reasons that the salmon has 27 g/kg of Omega-3 (or 27,000mg) which makes it a little easier to compare to the mercury. We estimate that Holford’s calculation is out by a factor of 10,000 but what’s a few orders of magnitude between guru and follower. We think that the number in the final column should be an unwieldy 540,000 rather than 54.

Ever ready to give Holford the benefit of the doubt, we ran some of the other calculations to determine whether there was (say) a consistent error in the units which would make some sort of sense. Sadly, there isn’t. E.g., Holford reports that marin has Omega-3 of 1.1 g/100g and mercury of 1.1 mg/kg and calculates the ratio as 1. We think that this should read 11g/kg (11,000mg) and 1.1 mg/kg with a ratio of 10,000 rather than 1. This is the same error of order of magnitude as for the fresh wild salmon. However, at a glance, it was obvious that there was a different order of magnitude error for the fresh mackerel: Holford reports around 10x more mercury, and a similar amount of Omega-3, yet the ratio is approximately the same, rather than differing by an order of magnitude (as it should). Fresh mackerel is reported to have 19.3 g/kg (19300mg) Omega-3 and 0.54 mg/kg of mercury: Holford calculates this as a ratio of 35.7. Holford Watch estimates that this should read 35,741: so, this is a lower order of magnitude than the other calculations.

Holford Watch is delighted that you spotted something fishy with the numbers as soon as you saw the table but we are a little dispirited that the adults who gave this to you didn’t spot the errors. It is irritating that these mistakes have obviously persisted despite the new edition of the book.

Did you write a poem about how you felt?

Pisces vobiscum – Holford Watch

Dear Holford Watch,

Our mothers always taught us that we should never be unkind
But they’ve never read New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind.
If Class 9 could have one retrospective, fervent, longed-for wish
It would be we’d never looked at Patrick Holford’s chart of fish.

Yours – Class 9


Filed under fish, Holford, mercury, New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, omega 3, patrick holford

Patrick Holford, MMR and What Passes for Hard Evidence

Patrick Holford is remarkably generous about sharing his insights and knowledge. The science and politics of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) concern substantial numbers of people. There is a significant research effort to investigate numerous potential aetiologies that might contribute to ASD. ASD can have a significant impact on family life, education, social life etc. Today, the Autism Omnibus starts in the US and several commentators (here and here) have expressed misgivings that the outcome may persuade the pharmaceutical industry to pull out of vaccinations altogether with potentially significant consequences for Public Health and our ability to withstand threats of bio-terrorism.

But Patrick Holford has the solution. If you accept the invitation to Meet the Author of the co-authored Optimum Nutrition for your Child’s Mind then you are in for a startling revelation:

We’ve learned about what it is that makes some kids develop autism and also how to bring them back.

Continue reading


Filed under autism, Colson, Deborah Colson, Holford, immunization, mercury, MMR, Optimum Nutrition for Your Child's Mind, patrick holford, thimerosal, thiomersal, vaccination, vaccines