Myth: Holford is a highly qualified nutritionist

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.

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20 responses to “Myth: Holford is a highly qualified nutritionist

  1. rita

    Moved to off-topic. Rita, any more off-topic comments should be posted there as we shan’t move them for you again in future.

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  6. BRENDAJEAN GILBERT

    I have just come upon this site for the first time and am horrified at the vitriol and jealousy piled on to Patrick.

    I studied with the second intake of the course at ION and also worked as an administrator for the company.

    I remember Patrick as a commited, honest, ground breaking man, who went where not many have gone before, with a passion for the subject. He left no stone unturned in his quest to find the truths of nutrition and worked tirelessly to find a better way.

    Stop carping and get on with your own lives.

    Admin edit: read the site and comment on the content. However, thanks for demonstrating that it is emotion not evidence that drives support for Patrick Holford. You do, of course, have a conflict of interest as somebody ‘educated’ by someone who has no formal qualifications in nutrition.

  7. I have just done a Google search on you and – assuming you are not an associate professor in psychology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale – nothing came up. As far as I can see you do not appear to be one of the practitioners listed on the ION website.

    You say you were amongst the second intake of Dip ION students. What exactly have you been doing since finishing the course?

  8. Lee, Brenda Jean Gilbert may well have retired as the 2nd intake may well have been some time in the mid-80s, not that they were awarding a DipION back then. ION was a company back then – it didn’t become an educational trust until 1992.

  9. I think originally the course was two years. If Ms Gilbert has indeed retired it would be interesting to learn where her ION studies led.

    The image of Patrick Holford as the ground breaker going where “not many people have gone before” makes me think of Star Trek. That could explain the paranoia his supporters about criticism. They could be time travellers from the future showing the way to optimum nutrition. Or as Dr Aust has hinted at they may be from an alternative reality in another dimension …. Yessss, that explains so much!!!

    Admin edit: and 2 years, very part-time. At a time when Holford was going around, looking for a postgraduate course to accept him or (if this was 1987 or thereabouts) pursuing his MPhil in hair analysis at the University of Surrey (to no outcome). And, shortly after he wrote the book that endorsed dowsing and applied kinesiology. Perhaps they were part of the ION course back then?

    Dr Aust on Alt.Reality.

  10. Can’t remember whether I have mentioned this here before, but the Winter 2007 edition of the ION’s in-house journal ” Optimum Nutrition” magazine had an article admitting there was little evidence base behind hair mineral analysis.

  11. So, Lee, perhaps Patrick Holford saved himself a lot of time and money by not pursuing it any further…

  12. Ernst and Singh write in “Trick or Treatment”: “The concepts of orthomolecular medicine [also know as optimum nutrition] are not biologically plausible and supported by the results of rigorous clincical trials. These problems are compounded by the fact that orthomolecular medicine can cause harm and is often very expensive.” (Treat or Treatment p.320)

    If he had a degree in nutrition presumably he would not be advising everyone to take supplements and if he had finished his MPhil. he would have discovered hair mineral analysis was a load of nutri*******s so his therapists would not be able to charge us for it. But what would they then do with themselves all day if they were unable to recommend unproven treatment plans?

  13. It’s a shame your site search doesn’t cover comments. I just had a look to see if I could work out how many commenters had misused the words “vitriol” or “vitriolic”.

    I’m not sure how (gently) pointing out flaws in someone’s work or gaps in their qualifications counts as “abusive or venomous language” or “cruel and bitter criticism”. The use of the word vitriol by Patrick Holford’s supporters seems to me to be woefully inaccurate. I can remember someone calling the most accurate and least vitritolic journalist I have ever read “inaccurate and vitriolic” – perhaps that was the point at which the word was redefined?

    Admin edit: ah, cher Patrique, as Dr Aust would say. Who can forget Holford’s attack on Ben Goldacre as “vitriolic and inaccurate”. But yes, in some quarters, it seems as if there is a Knee-Jerk dictionary that defines vitriol as “someone who disagrees with me using science and my own words to do it”.

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  18. cohueba

    I thought he was not only a medical doctor but a psychiatrist with research interests in nutrition.

    He isn’t a psychiatrist, a medical doctor or even qualified in nutrition?

    Colour me fooled.

    • Such mis-understandings are common. Some are the responsibility of the reporters others seem to be related to the way that Holford presents himself (as per the video with Emer Keeling).

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