Dear Daily Mail Editors: congratulations on a very dramatic headline. A cancerous conspiracy to poison your faith in organic food: that is pure genius, building nicely on the recent reprimand to ‘the authorities’ for making us Scared to death? The REAL worry is today’s culture of fear. You will understand how many readers chuckled to read that the Daily Mail, of all newspapers, is accusing others of scare-mongering. Continue reading
Category Archives: nutrition
Joanna Blythman: Please Read the Data Appendices About Organic Food Before Conjuring ‘Cancerous Conspiracies’: Part 1
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford is Head of Science and Education at Biocare. From time to time Holford has nothing but harsh words for randomised controlled trials and the perceived iniquity of systematic reviews or meta-analyses. Unless they confirm a point of view that he already holds, of course, or that he can adapt to the self-aggrandisement of his opinions. And so it is with some delight and no obvious trace of irony that Holford welcomes the release of a systematic review and meta-analysis that evaluates the impact of incorporating walnuts into the diet and outcomes for blood lipids as a proxy for a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Or, as Holford so pithily phrases it, Go (wal) nuts this summer – walnuts lower your cholesterol (as ever, you need to go to the home page to read the first paragraph but Holford is handily re-cycling his blog posts as email newsletters which must be value for money). Continue reading
Washington Post carries a thought-provoking and slightly depressing article: Even a Dietitian Can Find It Hard to Craft a Diet That Covers All the Bases. Essentially, even a very experienced Registered Dietitian found it difficult to design a diet that met all the dietary guidelines within 1800 calories (day’s menu for a hypothetical 35-year-old, 5-foot-4-inch woman who weighs 130 pounds and exercises three times a week) and that isn’t taking issues such as affordability into account. Continue reading
I’ve been wondering what it is that so irritating about a certain type of food and health writer, the sort that moralises and pontificates about the food that the population should be eating. Media-hyped examples would be Gillian McKeith and her Abundant Foods list that includes vinegars and Tamari (who considers them to be food rather than ingredients?), or Patrick Holford and his low GL recommendations that can involve about £9 worth of berries per person, per day. Holford claims that people who are optimally nourished don’t become ill and don’t need medicine.
McKeith and Holford both stress that people should eat organic fruit, vegetables, meat or eggs. Given that they target a comparatively affluent market demographic and recommend a diet that is studded with supplements, it is possibly irrelevant to them that this is neither affordable nor sustainable for much of the population. Continue reading
Wednesday 7 January, BBC’s Working Lunch has just run an interview with Sahar Hashemi of Skinny Candy. It wasn’t the point of the interview but along the way, we were treated to some credulous acceptance of the claims being made for the company’s products and the assertion that eating these is “guilt-free” at several points. Now, “guilt” is an subjective experience and cultural artifact in many ways and its association with food is tiresome and has possibly led to personal discomfort relating food issues for too many people. However, looking at the ingredients list and the calorie count for Skinny Candy products, the claims not only border on the nonsensical but both Sahar Hashemi and the interviewers failed to give the standard, “Children have a low tolerance for polyols so they should eat these with caution. Even adults probably can’t eat more than a restricted amount of these without experiencing a laxative effect and we should remind you that sugar-free does not mean calorie-free or even particularly low-calorie or low-carbohydrate”. Plus, there was a heavy emphasis on how these ‘guilt-free products’ were free of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Working Lunch is a business programme but that is no excuse for promoting nutritional wibble. Continue reading
Seriously, What Do They Teach at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition Judging by the IONistas in the Public Eye?
What do they teach people at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition? When the founder of one’s alma mater is
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford this might, occasionally, give one pause as to exactly what is taught to the aspiring cohorts of students of nutritionism. Patrick Holford set up the Institute of Optimum Nutrition as a limited company, back when he was in such a state of despair as to the disparity between his own auto-didact expertise and that of people who had actually studied the topic for several decades and researched it in rigorous detail, that he felt that he had no option but to set up his own institute of learning to spread his own special take on nutritionism throughout the tranche of gullible like-minded, well-heeled seekers after knowledge. Continue reading Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford and Head of Science and Education at Biocare has an outstanding PR and marketing team. A recent wheeze is to offer newspapers some free editorial in exchange for some promotion of Holford’s 100%health subscription service. Now, we’ve commented on the quality of this service on several occasions and questioned whether it represents value for money. However, in these times of repeated laments about the economic downturn and the need for belt-tightening, the Daily Record nonetheless decided to take advantage of this dubiously useful offer: Make Nutrition Your Mission. It’s sadly predictable than in amongst the stuff that your mother and grandmother have been telling you for years, there is some nonsense that is so egregious that it would make your eyes bulge if this were not par for the course with a certain sort of nutritionist. When their work is reproduced online, it needs to be accompanied by a sound file of the bassoon notes of incompetence so that irritated readers have a ready outlet for their feelings. Continue reading
Ben Goldacre’s Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists on Radio 4 Won a Norwich Union Medical Journalism Award
HolfordWatch enjoyed Dr Ben Goldacre and Rami Tzabar’s 2-parter on The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists on Radio 4 (see update for MP3 links). We thought that it was an interesting exploration of the scientific rhetoric that is intended to lend respectability to nutritionism, and its adherents.
Visiting Professor Patrick Holford was included as a notable example of a self-styled nutritionists who distorts research and reduces it to what was characterised as ‘a low and somewhat tabloid-y level of discourse’ with a hefty dose of promotion for supplements. We’ve just learned that it won the Norwich Union Healthcare Medical Journalism Award for National Radio, 2008. Continue reading
Radio 4’s You & Yours today discussed the issues arising from the alleged injury of a client of nutritional therapist Barbara Nash, when Nash put the client onto a ‘detox diet’.
The programme (here and you can listen again here, while it’s still available) includes an interview with registered dietitian Catherine Collins, and the BANT Chair Emma Stiles: extraordinarily, Stiles apparently acknowledges that nutritional therapists do not practise evidence-based medicine. However, the segment began with Mr Page telling the sad story of how this diet – including lots of water and low sodium – progressed. Dawn Page consulted a nutritional therapist because she wanted to lose some weight, but she ended up in intensive care and still suffers from cognitive problems (this case was settled out of court for £810,000; Nash continues to deny responsibility for the injuries to Mrs Page, and due to the settlement there has not been a court finding on this case). Continue reading