Myth: Holford recommends supplement pills without any competing interests
Up until 2007, Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University sold supplement pills through Health Products for Life; in 2007, he sold this company to NeutraHealth (Biocare’s parent company) in a £464,000 deal. Holford now works for Biocare – a supplement pill company – as ‘Head of Science and Education’. He is also the Chief Executive of Food for the Brain – a charity which lists a number of supplement pill companies among its funders.
Myth: Holford is a highly qualified nutritionist
Holford has no accredited degree-level or postgraduate-level qualifications in nutrition; he has never taken any exams or been subjected to a critical appraisal of his knowledge of the sort one might expect with qualifications. Holford’s sole university degree is a BSc in Psychology from York (he earned a 2.2). Holford started an MPhil at Surrey University, but failed to complete this.
Holford’s only ‘qualification’ in nutrition is an honorary one: he was awarded an honorary DipION from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, while he was Director. Holford can legally call himself a nutritionist in Britain – ‘Nutritionist’ is not a protected title here, and anyone is free to use it. Despite Holford’s own lack of such qualifications, it is clear in this conversation with Dr Emer Keeling that Holford believes nutritionists should have 3-4 years of scientific training to be qualified as nutritionists and seems to be inappropriately reticent about his own status. For more information see: Myth: Holford Is A Qualified Nutritionist
Although the University of Teesside appointed Holford as a Visiting Professor at the School of Social Sciences and Law in the summer of 2007, in June 2008, Holford resigned this position.
Myth: Patrick Holford only recommends evidence-based supplements
Patrick Holford appears on GMTV with bottles of his own formulations. Holford advises the use of his formulation Cinnachrome for “natural blood sugar management” and for diabetes. He claims that there is clear clinical evidence for his recommendations. For more information: Myth: The Scientific Support for Chromium and Cinnamon.
Myth: Patrick Holford only recommends sensible, evidence-based nutritional interventions
Holford has actually recommended a range of healthcare modalities that do not just lack any good evidence of efficacy, but – given our current understand of the laws of physics – lack any feasible mechanism of action. For example, he has promoted health dowsing and applied kinesiology; he has written positively about homoeopathic alternatives to vaccination and has promoted and sold the QLink pendant. See Implausible Healthcare Modalities for more details.
Myth: Patrick Holford advocates evidence-based nutritional approaches to HIV/AIDS treatment
Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible states that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C.” However, he made this claim based on (incorrectly referenced) in vitro research, and it is not supported by in vivo human trials. Holford has argued at length about how to interpret this claim, but the quote is accurate and has not been retracted. While Holford has argued that the claim ‘AZT is proving less effective than Vitamin C’ is different from a claim that ‘Vitamin C is proving more effective than AZT’, most would view these claims as equivalent; anyway, this claim is so important that it should not require semantic contortions or discussions about syntax.
Myth: Holford recommends direct-to-consumer health tests because they empower people
Professor Patrick Holford argues that home-tests for health conditions empower individuals and this may account for their unpopularity with some health professionals:
some health professionals just haven’t kept up to date. Perhaps it’s because a ‘home test’ takes the power away from the professional and puts it in your hands.
This is a remarkable slur against “some health professionals”, particularly when there are well-formed objections based on expert opinion that some of these tests are irrelevant or dubious and may have been subject to extensive criticism. Just because it is easy for a trained professional to interpet a test-result, this is no guarantee that somebody at home can do this for themselves. There is no clear evidence that these tests are empowering for the individual no matter how rewarding it may be for individuals who promote them. For more information: Myth: Home Tests Empower Individuals.
Myth: Patrick Holford’s recommended food intolerance blood tests are scientifically validated
Holford claims that you can diagnose food intolerance with a blood test; he even endorses one by YorkTest and has written a book about your Hidden Food Allergies. Holford relies upon audits of customer satisfaction surveys for his evidence. The majority of published and peer-reviewed research states that this is not true. Dr Glenis Scadding expressed herself on this matter with some vigour when she presented evidence to the House of Lords Committee that investigated allergies and allergic disease. The ASA has recently reviewed the ‘evidence’ for such tests and concluded that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that they can diagnose food intolerance. For more information: Myth: IgG blood tests diagnose food intolerance