When discussing “why you crave sugar the way you do” with East Coast Radio in South Africa, Patrick Holford blames “ignorance” as the main cause of ill health. There are a number of issues here:
- I remain unconvinced that Holford’s work on topics such as nutrition or HIV has helped to improve the knowledge of the general public.
- In his discussion with East Coast Radio, Holford draws extensive conclusions (on issues including causal relationships) from a survey of 60,000 people; I would also have concerns re the design of the survey. This suggests a problematic understanding of research design and interpretation.
- I am unconvinced that ignorance is the main cause of ill health. Issues around poverty, inequality, addiction, disease and access to appropriate treatments all play significant roles. Even if people know for example that smoking is bad for them, this will – sadly – not be sufficient to enable them to stop.
There are currently serious health problems in South Africa. Rolling out Holford’s ‘100% health’ ideas – as a supposed solution to the dangers of ignorance – would not be an appropriate solution.
Evidence-based social policies to target inequality, poverty and access to healthcare all have important roles to play in South Africa. ‘Alternative’ nutritionism marketed by British media nutritionists would not be a helpful import.
We were concerned to hear Patrick Holford featuring in a truly disappointing interview on Kim Hill’s Saturday morning radio show: he was given over 50 minutes, almost unchallenged, to assert a whole manner of dubious claims. Patrick Holford – introduced as a “British nutritionist” – was allowed to share his wisdom on such things as addiction, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer. I can’t deal with this all here – you really need to listen to the show in its entirety to fully appreciate how often it hits you round the head with the stupid stick – but I will note a few low/highlights. I should also say that we did e-mail the show before broadcast to raise some concerns; however, they chose to give Holford the opportunity to share his wisdom with their listeners, almost unchallenged. Continue reading
I generally don’t like people launching libel actions against honest, pertinent criticisms of their actions. However, Matthias Rath has engaged in such apalling activities that – when I learned that he had launched a libel action again Ben Goldacre and the Guardian, which recently had costs awarded against Rath after he backed down – this did not significantly lower Rath in my estimation.
I am delighted that Rath has backed down – and that Ben Goldacre and the Guardian stood firm against his threats. As Goldacre puts it, this type of legal action is
unhealthy. Ideas improve when they are challenged and questioned.
It is great that costs were won against Rath, and that Goldacre and others will now be free to criticise Rath again. The articles criticising Rath were well-written and biting (I can’t seem to find the articles online at the moment, though hopefully they will resurface quickly now the legal action is over).
However, I can’t get out of my head other things that Rath has been involved in – which are far, far worse than suing journalists. In particular, while huge numbers of South Africans have been – and, tragically, still are – dying unnecessarily early of AIDS, the Rath Foundation has been promoting Rath’s vitamin pills in the state Continue reading