I have been disappointed with some of the content of the BBC’s Grow Your Own Drugs: in particular, its discussion of the use of turmeric and willow bark. I have therefore submitted two complaints to the BBC, and will explain my concerns in this post.
The programme suggests a daily dose of turmeric tea for arthritis treatment: arguing the curcumin in this may be beneficial. Sadly, though, this treatment is simply implausible: curcumin’s bioavailability is poor and (even if black pepper can improve bioavailability) it seems impossible that a daily cuppa would give enough of a dose to do anything particularly useful. I pointed this out to the BBC, and they responded to me:
While we appreciate your concerns, it’s always been the case that James Wong doesn’t believe that natural remedies are a replacement for conventional medicine, and he reminds viewers of this during the series. The programme’s website also explains this
While I am delighted that the BBC make clear that implausible treatments shouldn’t be used to replace actual medicine, it is nonetheless unhelpful for them to suggest implausible treatments in the first place. I have therefore asked them to consider my complaint again. Continue reading
BBC Radio Oxford broadcast an infomercial for Patrick Holford’s books and his commercial diet programme (transcript below). BBC i) did not invite any experts to discuss Holford’s diet or claims, ii) question whether the ‘free diet trial’ involved purchasing supplements or blood tests iii) ask for details of the ‘science’ that he claims supports his advice. Continue reading
BBC Radio 5 Live had Scott Quinnell on the 6/11/09 breakfast show*, for Dyslexia Awareness Week. Unfortunately, his conversation on the breakfast show gave him an opportunity to plug Dore unchallenged. We have a number of concerns about this radio segment:
- Quinnell is allowed to state that by “stimulating…three senses” Dore “allows the neural pathways to be automatic between the cerebellum and…your thinking brain”. There is not good evidence for this claim, but Quinnell is allowed to assert it unchallenged.
- The BBC presenter talking with Quinnell comes across as supporting such claims, stating that it is “extraordinary…to think that [Dore exercises] can translate into being able to look at a page and to read”.
- There is no mention of the lack of good evidence that the Dore treatment is effective.
- There is no mention that Dore UK went into administration last year.
- There is no mention of the fact that Dore is a commercial (and rather expensive) programme, nor that Dynevor, which now owns Dore, was established by Quinnell
- The presenter has to check pronunciation of ‘Dore’ while discussing it with Quinnell on air. I am not sure if this speaks to the quality of the pre-broadcast research into Dore and dyslexia.
In response to a previous complaint, I was told that the BBC
never intended to give Quinnell a platform in any way to promote Dore
I wonder what the intention was with this national radio slot?
It is a shame that Dyslexia Awareness Week could not have been used as a reason for discussion of evidence-based approaches to dyslexia. It is not appropriate for the BBC to allow an expensive and highly time-consuming commercial dyslexia treatment – without good evidence of efficacy – to be promoted in this way. I will be complaining to the BBC about this. I would encourage readers to do the same.
* on iplayer now, about 2:56 in.
PS: apologies if there is some repetition of this post: some of the mistakes made were similar enough that I found this hard to avoid.
Filed under Dore, dyslexia
I was disappointed to see the BBC News website giving lots of space to a health product from Nelson Honey and Marketing, despite a lack of evidence of efficacy. It appears – strangely – that the BBC views the fact that Nelson has asked the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for permission to make certain claims for their product as newsworthy in itself.
The BBC reports that Nelson is
seeking EU approval to market honeybee venom to help people with arthritis ease their pain. Nelson Honey & Marketing says two teaspoons a day of its honey with added venom milked from honeybees has anti-inflammatory power to soothe joints. 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
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
I was planning to blog something about Patrick Holford, but then I saw The Apprentice last night: they gave contestants a visit to the Energy Clinic as a prize, and Sir Alan Sugar recommended the clinic as a place where companies often send their ‘highfliers’. If wealthy business people and corporations want to waste their money on unpleasant herbal teas and implausible energy spa ‘treats’, we have no particular objection. However, the Energy Clinic (formerly called the Energy Bank) has had a darker side.
As we noted on this blog, at the Energy Bank there were
claims of efficacy for treating Aids. In 2003, BBC2 broadcast Annie Kossoff’s Kill or Cure series. Warwick Powell worked with Energy Bank to attempt to counter Aids. Powell eschewed conventional treatment because it offered disease management rather than a cure. After following the Energy Bank programme for some time, Powell has a blood test and is distressed to learn that his T-cell count has not improved. Continue reading
Back in January we wrote to Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University, Head of Science and Education at Biocare and CEO of Food for the Brain: we asked some questions about the survey to help us perform a robust review. We waited for three weeks but did not receive any responses and, thus hampered, continued to review the survey and uncovered about as grisly a work of ineptitude with statistics as has ever come our way.
The FFTB Child Survey literature review was irrelevant and incompetent. But the number-crunching and display of summary data were breathtakingly, unbelievably bad. Office-neighbours-should-have-been-pounding-on-the-wall-and-calling-the-statistics-authorities-and-reporting-a-hazard-to-health bad. The-guilty-parties-should-be-having-their-keyboard-privileges-revoked bad. Continue reading
The second part of the BBC Radio 4 show The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists (listen again here, later tonight) starts by noting that “Everybody wants to be healthy, but how do you know who to trust?” Ben Goldacre then spends a considerable amount of time speaking to a number of eminent professors, in order to demonstrate that one cannot trust Holford’s science: Holford’s science fails in numerous ways.
The interviewees are extremely critical about the quality of Holford’s work, and Holford has predictably claimed that the programme was unfair. However, this programme is actually an accurate and balanced assessment of Holford’s work. If Holford finds such assessments harsh, we would argue that he should look to improve the quality of his own work and offer a meaningful response to some of the criticisms raised, along with correcting his numerous errors. His current (non)responses to the serious questions raised are woefully inadequate. Continue reading
Having just posted about Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University’s curious relationship with the mainstream media, we were fascinated to see Patrick Holford responding to the Radio 4 programme: The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists. From what he writes, it sounds like he does feature in Part 2 of the series. I haven’t heard Part 2 yet – it’s scheduled to be broadcast on March 31 at 8pm – but it’s already clear that Holford fails to offer an adequate response to the questions raised. His responses range from dodging the questions asked, to answering while giving a clearly incorrect answer, and so gobsmackingly wrong that they even fail to qualify as wrong. Now I’m really looking forward to the radio programme: Holford digs himself in deep enough without having heard the programme, but I’m sure that the BBC’s research skills will allow them to provide a JCB or two to join Holford in his hole. Continue reading