Patrick Holford is Head of Science and Education at Biocare and a busy man. However, he has a little time on his hands since becoming a former Visiting Professor at the University of Teesside so he started a blog on which only paying-subscribers were allowed to comment. Sadly, despite the additional writing practice, Holford’s ability to provide accurate references or even link to the correct paper has not improved. We also have a splendid example of flip-flopping on the value of meta-analyses that is nicely captured in a recent Will Wilkinson summary of David Brooks:
Scientists have discovered X. Mostly X vanquishes my intellectual bugbears and confirms me in my prejudices. To the extent it doesn’t, science isn’t really an authoritative source of wisdom, now is it?
Dr Anton Emmanuel is a Senior Lecturer in Gastroenterology at UCL. He has also studied the use of IgG testing kits – specifically, Yorktest testing kits. His research has been referred to (very likely inappropriately) by Yorktest in defence of their products. He is also one of the experts listed as backing Food Intolerance Awareness – which refers people to Yorktest for IgG tests.
When Radio 4’s Case Notes investigated food intolerance, Emmanuel was interviewed re IgG testing. We were surprised to hear him offering a rather (in our opinion, appropriately) negative assessment of the diagnostic value of such tests for identifying food intolerances.
Emmanuel is introduced by the presenter as not being very impressed with testing kits, and describes this process of testing as “not nearly as specific as one would like it to be”. For Emmanuel, the fact that wheat, yeast etc. come up often on these tests probably reflects “as much as anything else, our exposure to these things in our diet” rather than a specific intolerance/allergy.
Emmanuel is not impressed with these tests due to, among other issues:
- No external standard as to levels which show intolerance: the tests rely on internal standards which aren’t as robust as one might like.
- The effects in the patients Emmanuel has seen using these tests have largely been unimpressive, period. Even where patients did appear to benefit, results have not been great in the longer term.
- A slightly leaky gut may lead to an IgG response to various proteins. It is erroneous to tie this response to specific proteins.
I am constantly in awe of the resilience of people and companies: their nonsense can be exposed in the most public of fora and yet they bounce right back with their marketing message unchanged or tactfully edited but still ignoring the point that it is underpinned by nonsense.
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford comes to mind as does Nas Amir Ahmadi of Detox in a Box. YorkTest (so beloved of Patrick Holford, Allergy UK, and a slew of self-declared experts as well as TV doctors) is another such company. YorkTest offers a food intolerance product that has been declared irrelevant by clinical allergists and immunologists and publicly deprecated but manages to garner pages of laudatory press coverage through its attractive press releases and to win customers because it ‘sounds science-y’. Recently, YorkTest piggybacks onto Allergy UK‘s Blossom Awareness Week to highlight the issue of allergies in children. Continue reading
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford Head of Science and Education at Biocare so, presumably, they believe that he has scientific credibility and they persist in this belief despite the stack of evidence that might prompt them to revise their estimation of his scholarship, his level of discourse or hyperbolic styling as a in the field of health and nutrition. Holford is particularly obdurate on the topic of IgG tests for the diagnosis of food intolerance. Dr Robert Burton would probably find Holford’s continuing enthusiasm an interesting case-study for the next edition of Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not. However, it may be understandable that Holford cleaves to this despite the explicit advice from actual immunologists and allergy researchers and clinicians because it makes up part of the platform that allows him to sell tests, pills and special diets that are guided by his books. Continue reading
Although Holford is currently hoping to collaborate with an (as yet unknown to us) university – to (try to) research treatments for schizophrenia – we are not impressed by his learning. Given that we pulled apart the advertising of Maharani rice as “gluten free” almost a week ago, it is now disappointing to be forwarded an e-mail from Biocare’s Totally Nourish urging readers to:
Try Maharani rice this Food Intolerance week…Originating from Karnal in Northern India, this best kept secret has a wealth of benefits…Healthy. With a low Glycaemic Index (52) and no gluten, this rice has all the goodness normally associated with brown rice.
As we have said, rice is naturally gluten-free (this is why rice flour is used in some gluten-free products). Rice will only contain gluten if this is deliberately added during processing, or if there is accidental contamination. It is, already, difficult and expensive enough to eat a gluten-free diet: the last thing that people on this diet need is to be convinced that they need to eat special rice which sells for £5.99/kg.
The low GI of the rice is definitely interesting (although not massively different from basmati rice). 52 is impressive for something which only needs 20 minutes of cooking: GI sometimes increases with the duration of cooking. We have contacted Maharani Rice to ask which lab they used to test this, and will await the response with interest.
Last year, Food for the Brain modified some advice on dietary exclusions for children – when we pointed out that such changes should be implemented under medical and/or dietetic supervision. We were therefore disappointed to see iAfrica reporting Holford’s advice that “in order to maximise your children’s potential” you should:
Take your child off foods with additives or added sugar [and] Eliminate allergens from the diet…If you suspect your child is intolerant to a particular food, eliminate it from their diet and monitor the difference/reaction. If after two weeks if you see no difference in the behaviour or symptoms, reintroduce it and see if there’s a reaction. The most common foods that cause problems are wheat, gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and to a lesser extent oats), diary foods and eggs.