How to Quit with Feeling S**t with Patrick Holford at Baden Powell House

What were you doing on the evening of Thursday 09 October 2008? Watching Eastenders perhaps? Well, I travelled up to London to listen to and speak with Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and former visiting professor at the University of Teeside. Mr Holford was talking about his latest book – How to Quit Without Feeling S**t along with his co-author Dr David Miller.

The venue for the academic seminar was Baden Powell House. When I saw that in the email containing my ticket I imagined that I would be visiting the headquarters of the Scout Association. Not exactly as Baden Powell House is a youth hostel owned by the Scouts close to Gloucester Road underground station. The entrance foyer was crowded with German backpackers, but I was able to make my way around them to the large conference room at the side of the building. I would say more than 200 people were seated in the room each paying £15. Mr Holford had just started was doing a bit of name dropping in regard to Abram Hoffer. Apparently, at the age of 96 he was semi-retired and now only works four days a week. As Patrick Holford often points out he spends his time reading all the latest up-to-date research on nutrition and in the course of this research he discovered Dr David Miller.

Dr Miller is a recovered or recovering alcoholic. (I am not sure what the correct term is. It seems to change.) More than thirty years ago he was addicted to alcohol. He spoke rather movingly of his struggle to break free from the grip of alcohol. People think rather simplistically that once you stop taking a drug your problems are over. Nonetheless, addicts complain of symptoms such as mood swings and feelings of irritability. Dr Miller described these feelings as “chronic abstinence symptoms.” This does appear to a recognised medical condition. For example, see the following published research in respect of marijuana users.

A cartoon was shown of two doctors, one of whom was shaking whilst talking to his colleague. The caption read: “Doctor I seem to be addicted to prescribing drugs.” I remember that from Mr Holford’s Optimum for the Mind. Ho, ho, ho. Dr Miller then took us on a very short tour through the history of what the addiction treatment: (1) we had the moral model where the addiction arose from defects of character (2) there was the disease model where the problem was seen to be medical (3) the psychological model where the addict was perceived as having a mental disorder and finally (4) you have guessed it we have the integrative or holistic model. Addiction he declared is a “Bio psycho social spiritual disorder.” We were all given a hand out with the grand title “Scale of Abstinence Sympton Severity” and 26 possible symptoms. We were invited to rate ourselves on the scale of one to ten

There is a vicious cycle of stress and fatigue. In fact, there is a paradox in recovery in that in order to recover we need abstinence yet abstinence-based symptoms interfere with our ability to stay sober. Some of these symptoms last months or even years. “1 in 4 Britons are addicted” “13 million Britons have taken illegal drugs” According to The Observer newspaper “Many of us believe alcohol and tobacco pose greater health risks than ecstasy and cocaine.” Be scared. BE VERY SCARED. Before I go any further I would like to ask a few questions. It is a shame there was no opportunity to ask them at the time: (1) What are ¼ Britons addicted to and what is the nature of their addictions? From where does this statistic originate? (2) In what respect do ecstasy and cocaine pose a greater health risk than tobacco and alcohol? Presumably more people are taking the latter, though I would not imagine many muggings and burglaries are committed by people wanting to buy low cost Tesco lager. (3) How often do Britons take illegal drugs? I would imagine many simply take them when young or on just a few occasions.

In our seminar we then went to look at how our brains become addicted. Apparently, once again it is all to do with the neurons and neurotransmitters in our brains. If I had my way I would get rid of them all. Neurotransmitters in our brain are built from amino acids which our body of course obtains from proteins. Neurotransmitters will calm or excite us. Dopamine was given as an example. We were told that addictive substances mess with your brain. Here is a study I found on PubMed

Alcoholism is associated with shrinkage of brain tissue and reduction in the number of neurons

Addictive substances either mimic feel good chemicals or shut them down. The neurotransmitters in the brain that help motivate us become insensitive and dopamine is given as an example. Indeed on the Wikipedia, we read:

Dopamine has many functions in the brain, including important roles in behaviour and cognition. (…) A common hypothesis, though not uncontroversial is that dopamine has a function of transmitting reward prediction error.

For more information have a read of this fascinating article. Did you know that:

Although DA neurons account for less than 1% of the total neuronal population of the brain, they have a profound effect on brain function

So basically what Dr Miller and Mr Holford are telling us is that addictions mess up the biochemistry of our brain. I am sure most mainstream neuro-scientists would not disagree. So with all 200 members of the audience suitably scared what solution could be offered?

Well, we had another hand out listing six neurotransmitters. We were informed: (i) which amino acid it was made from (ii) what it does (iii) the symptoms of deficiency and (iv) the substances addicts use to compensate for deficiency. For example, Dopamine is made from L-tyrosine and gives rise to good feelings comfort and alertness. If you are deficient in it you feel empty, depressed and lack motivation which leads you to seeking alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, caffeine, sugar and tobacco. It all sounds a bit simplistic, but fortunately on the other side of the page is a solution to all your problems. There you will find a ready-made presciption for recovering alcoholics. Apparently, they need to take: (i) combination chill/sleep formula 4 pills a day (ii) Methyl-nutrient formula 2 pills a day (iii) Omega-3 EPA-rich capsule 2 pills a days and (iv) Vitamin C, 1000mg 2 pills. BUT DON’T FORGET ALWAYS TAKE THE BASIC SUPPLEMENTS which means that in addition you need: (i) an optimum multivitamin & mineral (ii) Additional Vitamin C: ideally with berry extracts (iii) Essential omega-3 and 6 fats (iv) Phospholipid complex. Fortunately, when Patrick took over he explained to us that we only have to take the amino acid supplements for a month or so. When the total abstinence symptoms were down you could just rely on the basics. Patrick was very pleased to note that Health Products for Life were able to make it that evening. Indeed, how fortunate they were not doing anything else. I wonder who asked them to come along? They were at the back of the hall selling lots of pills some of which, coincidentally, were recommended by Mr Holford himself.

By the time the break arrived I was extremely hungry. I reasoned that seeing as the place was a hostel for young people there should be a snack machine somewhere. I was correct and found one close to the reception. Unfortunately, Optimum Nutrition has not yet reached The Scout Association so the machines were full of chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks. I bought a packet of Walkers Ready Salted crisps – low in sugar, only 0.5g of salt and a moderate amount of non-essential fatty acids. However, I dared not go back in the main hall with such a substance. Possibly I could have been lynched by a group of nutritional therapists. At that point I noticed an exhibition in the corner of the room. Unsurprisingly it was about Baden Powell and the foundation of the Scout movement. The text on the first panel explained that back in 1907 Britain was a very different place. There was much poverty and many young people experienced malnutrition. Rickets was not unknown. Baden-Powell’s solution was not a supplement programme, it was teaching self-reliance. Members of the Scout movement experienced life out-doors, got plenty of exercise and learnt how to cook over camp fires. Unfortunately, I seemed to be alone whilst reading the exhibition.

The second part of the evening was taken up with Patrick telling us various things about allergies, testing for allergies, the pressure group Sense About Science, how to detox, why you should not eat dairy products and antioxidants. What this had to with addiction I was not sure, but it was his seminar after all. If I have time I’ll write that up another time. I was a bit disappointed that there was no opportunity to ask questions so afterwards I went up to the front to speak with Patrick. Again another post for another time. I also spoke with David Miller. Meanwhile next to us Mrs Holford was tidying away the audio equipment. She asked if I wanted privacy to speak with Dr Miller. Well no, I did not. Quite the opposite as what I wanted to know was whether there had been any studies done comparing what he was doing with more conventional treatments. We would not want to be shy and private about our successes would we? He told me that studies were shortly to short. That was a pleasant surprise. He handed me two leaflets about two centres offering the treatment. Click here and here for their websites. Both seem to specialise in intravenous therapy which according to one of the leaflets I was given

Delivers nutrients to the brain while by-passing the gut

Bridging the Gaps is based in the Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia. Placebo therapies such as acu-detox are available as is Yoga and gym membership. Possibly that has as much to do with their success rates as the nutrition therapy offered? If Patrick Holford were to open a similar facility in Britain where would it be located – Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons, the Lake District or the Wye Valley? As soon as we find out we’ll let you know so you can vary your holiday plans accordingly.

As I left I overheard Mrs Holford talking to Dr Miller

David you must be so hungry

I wondered whether I should point him in the direction of the chocolate machine in the foyer. No. Perhaps not.

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11 Responses to “How to Quit with Feeling S**t with Patrick Holford at Baden Powell House”

  1. gimpy Says:

    How fascinating. Did ex-Professor Holford provide any references for his theories as is customary for academics? Are there any plans to assess their effectiveness in clinical trials? While ex-Professor Holford’s enthusiasm to share his ground breaking solution to the problems of addiction is admirable I can’t help but wonder if he might benefit from treading carefully so as not to disrupt the coping mechanisms recovering addicts already have in place. I’m sure he wouldn’t want people to abandon a tried and tested method that is proving helpful to them in favour of impulsively adopting a new solution.

  2. Woobegone Says:

    Really interesting – please post more. I want to know what he said about Sense About Science, for starters.

  3. LeeT Says:

    @ Gimpy – no references were supplied, though as I said above Dr David Miller did tell me that they will shortly be doing some comparisons. There does not seem to be much controversy regarding the fact that addiction messes up the biochemistry of the brain. Patrick and Dr Miller has seized upon this and decided that supplementation would help. Just because neurotransmitters are made of amino acids does not necessarily mean that we need supplements. Possibly he could be right. It would have just been nice if he did the trials before going on the book tour!! Towards the end of the evening Patrick said he did not want to conventional treatment programmes and did went on to do so by saying how low the recovery rates were.

    @ Woobegone – he denounced “Sense about Science” whilst offering his endorsement of York Test’s allergy testing kits. “Sense about Science” had criticised York Test. He pointed out they were funded by big pharmaceutical companies. His aim, he said, was empowering people and allowing them to break free from the medical monopoly. I checked the website of “Sense about Science”. They do receive some funding some private companies which makes them vulnerable to this kind of attack. However, they also receive money from lots of other sources. I should have stood up and pointed out he was funded by Elder Pharmaceuticals who own 30% of Biocare’s share capital!

  4. dvnutrix Says:

    Patrick was very pleased to note that Health Products for Life were able to make it that evening. Indeed, how fortunate they were not doing anything else. I wonder who asked them to come along? They were at the back of the hall selling lots of pills some of which, coincidentally, were recommended by Mr Holford himself.

    Apparently, at health shows, Holford is often pleased and delighted to discover that Yorktest or his supplement company have turned up and placed a stall, with products, at the back of the room for the convenience of seminar attendees.

    Of course, mortals will never comprehend how enslaving people to costly supplements and advising them to take tests for which there is no demonstrable mechanism of scientific relevance is “empowering people and allowing them to break free from the medical monopoly”.

    Looking about, it seems that the results of those studies have been bruited about since 2006 – but still not published or made available in a form that can be scrutinised.

  5. LeeT Says:

    There was also a book stall. One of the people working on it referred to the woman who seemed to be in charge as Gabby. In a recent article in “The Irish Times” Mr Holford stated that his wife Gabrielle organised the tours. I am wondering if Gabby, Gabrielle and Mrs Holford are one and the same person. In which case how fortunate Mrs Holford was able to make it that evening and run a book stall. Could not find see any copies of “Bad Science”, “In Defence of Food” or “Trick or Treatment.” All the books seemed to be by her husband. How biased!! How are people are expected to break free from the medical umm … I mean Holford monopoly??

  6. Lee Says:

    Do you really eat Walkers crisps? It seems like you are a bit of a joke Lee!
    If you have any experience with working with amino acids in clinic you would know their theraputic power. Unfortunately you are only concentrating on your dislike for Holford which seems very biased in itself.

  7. LeeT Says:

    @ Lee thanks for your comment.

    Yes, I do occasionally eat Walkers crips.

    No, like I supect 98% of the population I have no experience of working with amino acids in a clinic or any other setting. I am just an ordinarly person trying to make sense of nutrition and live healthily. What kind of clinic were you referring to? Amino acids are great which is why we all need to eat protein. Are you advocating that we need to obtain them from supplements? I am not aware of any reviews by the Cochrane Collaboration suggesting that we do so.

    As for Mr Holford I would not say that I dislike him particularly. My very brief encounter with him just left me rather baffled and feeling rather uneasy.

  8. One coincidence after another … « Through a Glass Darkly Says:

    […] after another … By leet01 View PollDo you remember dear readers how I told you about my seminar with Patrick Holford? Well he was very pleased that Health Products for Life were able to attend. What a coincidence […]

  9. Listening to David Colquhoun and The Little Black Duck « Through a Glass Darkly Says:

    […] persuading. We just asked them and they said “yes.” Do you remember how I told you how we attended a seminar with ex-professor Patrick Holford? That cost £15 a head and there must have been more than 200 people there. You would have thought […]

  10. Drink and Drugs News Reproved By Its Well-Informed Readers « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science Says:

    […] then peer-reviewed, well-respected publications are more relevant than strongly-held, self-serving assertions made in marketing seminars conducted in the guise of educational events, promotional material for the offerings of a treatment centre subsumed into a charity (Food for the […]

  11. UK dietitian Says:

    The treatment sites claim that intravenous vitamin injections

    “Delivers nutrients to the brain while by-passing the gut”

    Actually, no. The only way you could deliver nutrients this way would be by intrathecal injection -ie into the spinal fluid. Even then, you may find it hard to pursuade nutrients to leave the spinal fluid and nestle into brain cells, unless of course they were deficient.

    Delivering nutrients intravenously does just that – delivers them to the bloodstream. No guarantee of passing the blood-brain barrier.

    excellent review, Lee.

    btw – once had the misfortune to attend a Holford lecture to midwives as part of an alternative health day. His modus operandi seems to be to suddenly finish on an intriguing comment …..”sorry, have run out of time” then invite members of the audience to come up to him and chat – from behind his raft of books which of course he can personally recommend, even sign, and profit from.

    What a salesman!!!

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