Tag Archives: patrick holford

Holford demonstrates why online health advice can be problematic

Patrick Holford has made clear his opinions on vitamin C and swine flu (we have already discussed an earlier version of his post, and I don’t know that there is much else to add). However, I was interested to not some of the user comments now on this post, and Holford’s responses. Giving health advice online is always problematic, and Holford does a good job of demonstrating some of the pitfalls.

It is always problematic to give advice without a full – and competently taken – patient history, not something which can be done in blog comments. This issue comes to light when one woman asks in the comments:

I think I have swine flu with a terrible cough and phlegm. What do you recommend I eat and drink?

In such circumstances, one would have hoped that the commenter would have been advised to phone her GP’s surgery or another competent medical professional: a lot of things cause coughs; many (thankfully) heal fine without any intervention, but some will require medical treatment.

Perhaps most worrying, though, is advice relating to current product use. ‘Vix’ states that

I am trying to ensure that both of my sons (aged 2 and 9) are well prepared to battle the impending flu season. I currently give my eldest son 500mg of Vitamin C per day – along with Echinacea, 2 teaspoons of Sambucol and a teaspoon of Colloidal Silver. My youngest gets about the same. Is this enough? And is there a childrens Vitamin C powder that you can specifically recommend? I can’t seem to find one on the Totally Nourish website – only capsules.

Colloidal silver carries risks, but does not bring any benefits. Dosing varies between products, so it is quite possible that a 2 year old and 9 year old child could be getting significant doses of the stuff. I would have hoped that Vix would have been warned of the risks of the product and referred to a competent professional; at a minimum, one would have hoped that enquiries could have been made as to the doses used. However, Holford responds by stating that:

I am not sure that Echinacea is the right thing for swine flu during infection. RE vit C BioCare do a good value vit C powder. I don’t see it on the Totally Nourish website though. I’m sure they can get it for you if you ask. That, in some diluted juice, works best for children.

I do not think that Holford’s blog post is an appropriate setting to offer this type of advice. I also have concerns about some of the advice offered. I will therefore be sending a complaint off to BANT (Holford is a Fellow) this weekend; I hope that they take prompt, effective and transparent action on this issue.

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Holford Diet site’s interesting take on Cochrane Review

Holford has had varied engagements with Cochrane Reviews, so we were interested to see the Holford Diet site – which promotes a low glycaemic load (LGL) diet plus supplements – celebrating one Review’s alleged finding that

a low GL diet is more effective than any other diet for weight loss and improving overall health…’Overweight or obese people lost more weight on a low Glycemic Load diet and had more improvements in lipid profiles than those receiving conventional diets.’

However, on looking at the Review itself we noted that it did not distinguish between LGL and low glycaemic index (LGI) diets. This was a review of

Randomised controlled trials comparing a low glycaemic index or load diet (LGI) with a higher glycaemic index or load diet or other diet (Cdiet) in overweight or obese people.

The review found some evidence that LGI and LGL diets can be especially beneficial, but did not aim to find whether an LGI or LGL diet was best. Given that this was a review of only six trials involving only 202 participants, this seems a sensible decision.

While it is nice to see a Holford site referring to such good quality sources, it is a shame that the Review could not have been reported more accurately.

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Holford and the history of agriculture

This morning, I was interested to read Holford arguing that

there are a whole lot of fundamental principles relating to how we live. I mean, for example, if you go back to a time when everyone was a hunter/gatherer, that’s 200 generations ago, that’s all. It’s really not that much. And, of course, all food was organic; all food was whole, unrefined and so on.

However, 200 generations is – being generous, and allowing 25 years/generation – 5,000 years. Humans have been farming for more like 10,000 years.

I am not, generally, especially convinced by this argument from ancientness. However, if someone is going to make this type of argument, we would at least hope that they would get their timelines right.

Holford also argues that

2,000mg [per day vitamin C] is pretty much what a Gorilla will eat in a natural environment, from fruits, leaves, berries and shoots. So my combined food and supplement intake of Vitamin C is about 2,000mg, and that is pretty consistent with evolution.

Holford, however, is not a gorilla. What is healthy for a gorilla is not necessarily healthy for him (or for you).

Given that the article related to a show put on by the Irish Association of Health Stores – which no doubt sell a range of interesting health foods – I would also note that gorillas have been known to eat faeces (their own, and those of other gorillas). Does a gorilla-style diet still sound so appealing?

h/t to Gimpy.

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Patrick Holford blogs cohort study which finds that “Multivitamin use was not related to total mortality”

I was interested to see Holford blogging about Pocobelli et al’s recent article on “Use of supplements of multivitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E in relation to mortality”. Holford reports the study as finding that “Multivitamin use cuts heart disease risk”. However, I have a number of concerns about Holford’s interpretation of this study Continue reading

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A Tale of Two WorkForces in the Same Workplace: Different Rules for Dietitians and Nutritionists in the NHS?

Last week the newspapers covered the story of Katie Peck who is both a degree-credentialled nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian. What is particularly interesting about this story is not the nature of some of her advice but that had she been recruited to work as a nutritionist, rather than RD, in her role at an NHS Diabetes Clinic, then there would not have been a hearing involving the Health Professions Council (HPC) and it is plausible that there would be no mechanism to allow scrutiny of the evidence-base for her advice to patients (the hearing has been adjourned until December, Mrs Peck denies any wrong-doing).

So, if you were to dispense some advice that your colleagues claim to lack an appropriate evidence base as an RD, then you might be asked to account for your actions before the HPC. However, if you dispense the same advice as a nutritionist (and, let’s imagine a scenario where this is a BANT rather than Nutrition Therapy Council nutritionist), then the route for challenging the advice is unclear at best. Continue reading

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Patrick Holford, Shark Liver Oil and Walnuts

Patrick Holford on ITV Lunchtime 16 April 2008
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford is Head of Science and Education at Biocare. From time to time Holford has nothing but harsh words for randomised controlled trials and the perceived iniquity of systematic reviews or meta-analyses. Unless they confirm a point of view that he already holds, of course, or that he can adapt to the self-aggrandisement of his opinions. And so it is with some delight and no obvious trace of irony that Holford welcomes the release of a systematic review and meta-analysis that evaluates the impact of incorporating walnuts into the diet and outcomes for blood lipids as a proxy for a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Or, as Holford so pithily phrases it, Go (wal) nuts this summer – walnuts lower your cholesterol (as ever, you need to go to the home page to read the first paragraph but Holford is handily re-cycling his blog posts as email newsletters which must be value for money). Continue reading

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Patrick Holford Claims More People Die, Prematurely, From Cardiovascular Disease Than Actually Die, Prematurely, From All Causes

Patrick Holford on ITV Lunchtime 16 April 2008
Former Visiting Professor Patrick Holford is Head of Science and Education at Biocare. Despite the imprimatur of respectability about these confidence-inspiring titles, from time to time, there are disappointing errors in the content of Holford’s health advice and sales pitches for home tests and the evidence base for supplements. These errors are all the more dispiriting when one recalls that he was corrected about some of them more than two years ago. We don’t mean differences of opinion, we mean verifiable, checkable facts. When Holford persuades people to rely upon his opinion and lend credence to it because he undertakes to do the scientific research and interpret it for them then it seems inappropriate to claim that more people died, prematurely, from a specific cause than actually died, prematurely, from all causes. Continue reading

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ASA resolve complaint with Totally Nourish

Totally Nourish sells supplements and other ‘health’ products, and has Patrick Holford as one of its two ‘experts’. We were therefore interested to see that they were mentioned on the Advertising Standards Authority website earlier this month (click on the “Informally Resolved Complaints” button”. According to the ASA, “After consideration by the ASA of complaints received” Totally Nourish “agreed to amend or withdraw advertising without the need for a formal investigation”.

We do wonder what the advertising in question was. It is a shame that the ASA does not make these details available.

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Patrick Holford’s Recommendation for Swine Flu – Same As Those for Bird Flu But With Phrase Substitution – Updated

Patrick Holford on ITV Lunchtime 16 April 2008

Patrick Holford has broken his (unaccountable) silence about pandemic fears around Mexico City flu (aka, swine flu). Take vitamin C. Jab more vitamin C into your veins. Take more supplements. Black elderberry makes it harder for viruses to enter your cells. Roll up. Learn about the Rath formulation that cures everything from cancer to HIV and flu. Roll up. Continue reading

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Patrick Holford and the Vitamins for Asthma That Become All About Food Intolerance and YorkTest

I have explained this many times
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?

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