Myth: Holford is a highly qualified nutritionist
(Former) Visiting Professor Patrick 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 registered for an MPhil at Surrey University with a view to converting to a PhD (which is the normal pattern) but failed to meet the conversion requirements for a PhD. Unfortunately, whatever work he had submitted, in combination with his poor conversion viva, does not seem to have been sufficient to attain the basic level of work that would be necessary to have obtained an MPhil award.
Holford’s only ‘qualification’ in nutrition is an honorary one. He must have been especially gratified when he was awarded an honorary DipION from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, while he was Director. However, Holford can legally call himself a nutritionist in Britain – ‘Nutritionist’ is not a protected title in the UK, and anyone is free to use it – unlike the term, Registered Dietitian (Catherine Collins RD has some very interesting observations on this point).
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. (You can read full details of the interview and follow a link to the full interview: Tap-dancing on the Late, Late Show.)
It is not unusual for journalists or members of the public to be surprised to learn that Holford’s Institute of Optimum Nutrition (ION) is not an accredited Higher Education institution, despite the ac.uk email address (a story that may be told, some day). The University of Bedfordshire (formerly Luton) agreed to validate the DipION as a foundation degree, however, this is a university that prompted The Telegraph to ask: Is this the worst university in Britain?
We should also clarify that the ION was not always a not-for-profit educational trust. For more information, see: Institute of Optimum Nutrition
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.