Archive for the ‘Patrick Holford’ Category

Getting a life and getting a wife

December 31, 2008

In the last post I told you about how some one expressed annoyance at my blogging telling me to “get a life and get a wife.”

Well, what I did not tell her is that I have already tried.  A few months ago I saw a poster in a newsagents window down Basingstoke High Street.  “Do you have no life?  Do you have no friends?  Perhaps you are spending too much time at your computer, possibly blogging away whilst the world passes you by?  Well don’t get depressed come speed dating at the Basingstoke Arms next Thursday and make lots of new friends!”  Well, that was quite a turn up for the books.  I resolved there and then to try speed dating.  Once everyone saw how charismatic, articulate and intelligent I was I need never spend an evening in again.

So one Thursday evening I went along to the Basingstoke Arms. There were lots and lots of people there just waiting to be introduced to me.  Once they heard my tuna risotto recipe I would be well in.  Two hours later I went to the back of the room to see if anyone had left me their telephone numbers or rather to see who had not left me her telephone number.  There were only two pieces of paper waiting for me.  One said, “Get lost. You bore me.”  Playing hard to get ehhh?   The other said:  “I feel our souls have achieved a connection at the level of quantum physics.  A spark waiting to be kindled. When the universe was created our destinies were bound together. I have a strong interest in new age psychology and feel tuna risotto is a metaphor for something.  After all tuna is a fish and we are a the end of the age of pisces.  Who knows where history will take us.  ‘Phone me on Basingstoke 222 746.”
So I telephoned the number.  It was Basingstoke Building Society. Surely some mistake?  No apparently there is not much demand for naturopaths in Basingstoke at the moment so my new friend had taken a job at the building society, just for the time being you understand. “Can I take you out to dinner?” I asked.  “There is a great Italian restaurant …”  “Sorry I don’t eat Italian.”  “Indian?” “No”  “Chinese” “No”  “Lebanese?” “No, it is just I have some allergies and most cooked foods give me a problem.”  “Why is that?”  “Look it is just the way my metabolism is built” she growled.  “How about the vegan place above the holistic clinic?  I’ll ask them to make sure your food does not come in contact with anything cooked.”

So we met up.  My new friend nibbled on some rice crackers whilst I had a quinoa roast.   “Of course I am not just a naturopathic doctor,” she declared I can talk to the dead.  “Really?”  I replied “It would be great to speak to my grandfather.  “It is NOT as easy as that.  You just need to be prepared to act as a receptor for the disembodied spirits out there.”   “Well, I s’pose given that at your clinic you tell people to avoid conventional medicine there must be quite a lot of disembodied spirits trying to contact you.”  I have to say I looked rather good with a quinoa roast on top of my head. You might say it was a new age hair style.

So there I was still without any friends.  There must be some one out there who would appreciate me.   So I logged on to and quickly found some one who was a life coach. Now if that was not glamorous and exciting I don’t know what is.  Unfortunately, our meeting did not last longer than the starter.  “You chose garlic bread.  You’re obviously a loser with no friends.  You need a copy of my latest book How to Be Brilliant and Change your Sad Old Life for only £19.99 (CD optional for an extra £12.99).  In fact why not come along to my next seminar?  Usually they cost £695 + VAT.  However, select and lucky individuals get to come for free.  I do think you deserve and need a scholarship for my programme.”  [Readers I have to confess to attending the three day seminar. I’ll tell you about that another time.]

Undaunted at my second brush off I picked up the latest issue of The Basingstoke Bugle. They have a section for people who want to make connections NOT a lonely hearts column you understand, but rather a means by which intelligent and charismatic people could get in touch with each other.  “Nutritional therapist seeks similarly successful and charismatic individual for discussions about the latest nutritional theories (systematic reviews optional).”

The following week I was back at the vegan restaurant.  Once we started eating I asked the question that had been playing on my mind all week:  “What is a nutritional therapist?” “Well, ” she answered, “difficult to say.  One thing I will say is that I am not a dietitian. They take orders from doctors.”   “Okay.   Who do you take orders from?”  “Well there is a man, a leader of our movement who has spent the last thirty years studying nutrition. ”  “Is he a dietitian?”  “Err … no” said my date. “Let me show you something I do not show very many people.”   She then got something out of her hand bag that looked like a school pencil case.  She opened it up.  “Gosh,” I gasped, “You have got a lot of pills there.”  “They are not pills,” she growled, “they are supplements to help rescue me from sub-optimum health.”  “What are they supplementing?” I asked.  “Come to my place next weekend and all will be revealed.”

I arrived the following Saturday and was ushered in to the living room.  “Watch this,” she ordered.  For the next three hours I had to watch a video with a man called Patrick talking about something called optimum nutrition.  How that was different to normal nutrition Patrick was not letting on.  “Our movement has a bible” she declared.  “Ahhh yes.  Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  “No, not that bible this bible,” she said handing me a book called The Optimum Nutrition Bible written by the same man who had presented the video we had just seen.  Apparently the book could be mine for just £14.99, though the video was not included.

So the readers despite my best efforts I have still not got any friends, but the moral of this story is who needs friends when you have got a blog ehhh?


An Evening with ex-professor Holford

September 30, 2008

Well I said I would do it and now I have done it.

Yes, that’s right I have paid £15 to attend a book promotion umm … I mean an academic seminar with ex-professor Patrick Holford. It had better be good that’s all I am saying.  If anyone is free next Thursday evening and is in London perhaps they would like to join me.  I am quite excited about it all!!

Introducing the Dip IONs – Patrick Holford’s Shock Troops of Optimum Nutrition

September 18, 2008

(1) Ex-professor Patrick Holford of Teeside Univesity and Head of Science and Education at Biocare is not alone. (And we are not talking about his collection of free range rabbits here.) As you know the learned scholar set up the Institute for Optimum Nutrition back in 1984. It is registered as a charity whose object is

the preservation and protection of health of the general public.

Unfortunately, none of Patrick’s pills can help him to be in more than one place at the same time so the ION was given the task of training the next generation of shock troops in Optimum Nutrition. One might describe it as a kind of franchise operation. Many of them, possibly a majority, are available to the general public for consultations. The ION website provides a handy directory to enable us to find out who these pioneers of new thinking are. Could we possibly be wrong? Should we be recommending to you all that you consult an ION trained nutritional therapist? Well we thought we would do a meta-analysis using information from the websites of all the Dip IONs we could find. After all it is easy to laugh at the lunatic fringe, but to find out how good they are you have to consider them as a group. (We MUST make it clear before you read any further that all the following information was found on publicly available websites. We are unable to comment on those without websites.)

(2) Now at Through a Glass Darkly we are sometimes accused of claiming that nutritional therapists are stupid. We are pleased to report to the world at large that this is not the case. Nearly all are relatively well-qualified. Indeed, around thirty appear to come from a science or health related background including three with PhDs. Some worked in the food industry so obviously know a lot about food. Others have come from fields such as nursing. It is great that Patrick has such discerning people promoting his work. Presumably they will know to treat his wilder ideas with, if you’ll pardon the expression, a pinch of sodium. We do not have any quarrel with these people and hope they can bring a bit of scientific rigour to the world of optimum nutrition.

(3) Unfortunately, more than half of Dip IONs with websites do not appear to have a background in science or if they do they are not telling us about it. Nothing wrong with that. Many seem to be undertaking a career change. It takes a great deal of courage to train for a new career, but what kind of training are these folks given? Well for a start you do not need A-levels in chemistry and biology. You merely need to take a few science access courses which

concentrate on aspects of these subjects that are particularly relevant to nutrition

It would be interesting to know how they decide what to leave out but there you go. The course itself is three years part-time and is summed up in a nice little booklet. This contrasts with the training that dieticians undergo. They do a full-time three year honours degree in nutrition followed by a year’s postgraduate clinical experience. In contrast the ION diploma course is equivalent to a two year foundation degree. Of course, the ION has recently launched a BSc honours degree in co-operation with the University of Bedfordshire. Although, it is a full-time degree only one day a week is required at the university. How much time for clinical practice does this leave …? Incidentally, in his recent book Ben Goldacre points out (Bad Science p178, Harper Collins 2008) that the university of Bedfordshire has been subject to criticism with regard to its accreditation of foundation degrees. Read paragraphs 45 to 52 of this report if you are interested in finding out more about the establishment with which the the ION decided to link itself.

(4) It does not look like any of these Dip IONs are planning to convert their qualification into an honours degree. Though let’s be fair possibly, again, they just don’t want to tell us about it. It could be they are too busy studying for their next diploma in complementary medicine. Many seem to be experts in metabolic typing, phytobiophysics, iridology, colour analysis, bowen therapy, emotion freedom techniques, applied metabolic ecology, bio-energetics (SCENAR) and blood microscopy. If you understand what half of these things are please enlighten us. Most of us struggle to be competent in one discipline so you have to marvel at these polymaths. Strangely enough there seems to be a correlation between those without scientific or healthcare qualifications and those who practice alternative therapies.

(5) One of the more controversial aspects of nutritional therapy has been the tests its practitioners offer. There are a wide variety available. For example, click here if you want to find out what one Northern Ireland therapist offers. Now I have neither the time, expertise or inclination to analyse all the tests nutritional therapists use to find out about our supposed problems. However, one is particularly controversial namely hair mineral analysis. The American Medical Association has gone so far as banning its practitioners from using the technique. To find out why you might like to read this article by the Little Black Duck last year. However, as you are probably aware the AMA and the Quackometer blog are not sources likely to be trusted by supporters of the ION and Patrick Holford. Consequently, we were very surprised to read an article on the subject of hair mineral analysis in Optimum Nutrition Magazine’s October 2007 edition. (Optimum Magazine magazine if you have never heard of it is the in-house journal of the ION.) The author science writer Alex Gazzola states:

“HMA is perhaps best viewed as an evolving area in need of open-minded scientific review. It has a limited present value because of the lack of evidence behind it – but it MIGHT [my emphasis] have untapped potential of enormous value. (Optimum Nutrition Magazine, p.30 Winter 2007.)

(We have a scanned copy of the article that can be sent to you if you want to read it.) Shockingly, many Dip IONs still declare they offer Hair Mineral Analysis. We have to wonder whether they are aware of the lack of evidence as to its usefulness for detecting mineral deficiencies.

(6) We are a bit concerned that nutritional therapists can be let loose on vulnerable people with so little training. How do they decide when they are out of their depth? Are they possibly assigned a mentor? Many of them speak of how they are bound by the BANT code of ethics, but BANT describes itself as the professional regulator working towards The Nutrition Therapy Council’s code of practice. However, the NTC refers those wanting to complain back to BANT as part of what they call

transitional arrangements

If you are confused by the above don’t worry so are we. May we suggest that, for the time being, all complaints are directed to HRH Prince Charles as he seems to be the driving force behind the regulatory plans for the nutritionista industry. Statutory regulation of doctors began with the Medical Act 1858 and if you have a complaint you can, ultimately, take it to the GMC. A similar arrangement exists with dietitians and despite what Holford Myths says they are regulated by the Health Professions Council and NOT the British Dietetic Association.

(7) It seems strange that many Dip IONs put the letters MBANT after their name on their websites. This might lead to the impression they have studied for another qualification when actually all they have done is pay their membership dues to the recently renamed British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy. After all, members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply only get one set of letters. We have to point out dietitians don’t put MBDA after their names! Several give the impression – we are sure it is unintentional – that their Dip ION and Foundation Science Degree (FdSc) from the University of Bedfordshire are two separate qualifications, for example see here and here. They are, of course, actually one and the same. Presumably, the proper way to display the letters on the door at your “clinic” is Dip ION or Dip ION/FdSc. Some appear to misunderstand the nature of their qualification. One describes herself as having

a Post Graduate Diploma from Patrick Holford’s world renowned Institute for Optimum Nutrition.

A few years after leaving university I did an afternoon first aid training course. I wonder if that counts as postgraduate medical training in the eyes of the ION? Three describe themselves as Clinical Nutritionists even though BANT advises its members to describe themselves as nutritional therapists. (See “Understanding The Differences Between Nutrition Health Professionals” The Nutrition Society, Sep 2004, p34)

(8) Consequently, we regret at this stage we do not feel we can recommend a visit to a nutrition therapist. If you want to learn more about nutrition why not buy a copy of Nutrition for Dummies written by Sue Baic and Nigel Denby, two state registered dietitians. It may be that you feel that you are a bit overweight in which case you might want to book an appointment with the practice nurse at your local health centre. He will be able to give you plenty of advice about routes to a healthier lifestyle. If you feel you have a serious problem go and see your GP who, if necessary, can refer you to a dietitian. A nutritional therapist practising in the south of England put it rather well: ***Always consult your GP if you have a health problem.*** [See small print at the very bottom of your screen]

The Myths of Holford Myths

August 10, 2008

Patrick Holford now has a section of his website devoted to answering his critics:

In less than an hour I was able to demolish four of the myths. Goodness knows what some one who understands the science could do ….. Only the need to iron this week’s shirts prevented me continuing. Here we go:

Myth: Anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist

Well, no Patrick what’s to stop me calling myself a nutrition therapist. I am not a member of BANT so am not bound by its “strict code of ethics.”

Myth: Only dieticians and doctors are qualified to give diet advice

Patrick Holford appears to think dietitians are regulated by the British Dietetic Association. Actually, the BDA is a professional association and trade union. The body that polices them is the Health Professions Council. It is odd that he or whoever wrote the website was unaware of that fact. He claims that the Dip ION qualification “provides considerably more qualification [sic – a strange way of putting it] to advise an individual about their nutritional needs.” This is a rather odd statement given that dietitians train for four years and nutrition therapists train for what is the equivalent of two full-time years of study.

He claims nutrition therapists are regulated by the Nutrition Therapy Council. As far as I can see this is not currently the case. The NTC has been given about £900K of taxpayers cash to set up a regulatory framework, but as we saw a few weeks ago this is very much a work-in-progress with Dip ION therapists being asked to get up to speed on pharmacology:

Moreover, they do not seem to be doing much regulating at the moment: It seems that whilst transitional arrangements are in place any member of the public wishing to complain should get in touch with the Ethics Committee of the practitioners’ professional body. Strange then that on their homepage the NTC says: Practitioners do not need to be members of an association to apply for registration with the NTC. So to sum up the NTC are not regulating anyone at the moment and they are happy to accept members who not members of any professional association. I wonder if having having read Nutrition for Dummies would qualify me for membership of the NTC. Certainly, if Barbara Nash had read the chapter on electrolytes it would have saved her some problems.

Let’s remember when the regulatory framework is finally set up and in place it will be entirely voluntary. Statutory regulation of doctors began with The Medical Act 1858. Therefore doctors are 150 years ahead of the NTC! There is an interesting article about regulation of doctors here:

He claims nutrition therapists are able to micro-manage an individual’s nutritional health. However, as I discovered to my cost (about £70 actually) this is not possible in practice.

Myth: Patrick Holford has no qualifications

He, “is Visiting Professor at the School of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Teesside.” Ummm, no you are not Patrick. You really need to read another section of your website to remind yourself about your current responsibilities: Your CV clearly states “-2008” against the University of Teeside.

Myth: Patrick Holford owns a vitamin company and/or is a vitamin salesman

Earlier this year Neautrahealth issued the following information to the London Stock Exchange: They went on talk about their purchase of Health Products for Life: “The acquisition also saw us agree a licensing arrangement with Patrick Holford that has resulted in the launch of a product range, consisting of 20 products that are co-branded Patrick Holford and BioCare.”

Clearly BioCare see Patrick as some one who will help them sell vitamin pills. I suppose if one were being rather pedantic one would say that Patrick was marketing pills he had produced in association with others rather than merely selling them.  His first association was with Higher Nature. I note he is no longer publicizing their products on his website.  Presumably the licensing agreement prohibits him from doing so.

How to Quit without Feeling Terrible

August 2, 2008

I don’t know about you readers but Professor Patrick Holford has been writing to me quite a lot recently. Hardly a day goes by without either him or the Food for the Brain Foundation sending me an email.  Could it be Mr Holford has more time on his hands now he is no longer visiting the University of Teeside?

One particularly interesting message arrived on 25 July with the subject heading “How to Quit with Patrick.”  Now that looked like an offer I could not refuse.  I would love to quit with Patrick. Doing so would mean spending less time on the internet. Possibly it would mean I could go out a bit more and perhaps even make some new friends.

Unfortunately, it turned out I had been duped in to reading the email.  It was not worded very well at all. In  fact it was actually about allowing Patrick to cure all our problems.  You know alchoholism, prescription drugs, illegal drugs and cigarettes.  He has a new book out in September to help us do just that and it is called “How to Quit without feeling S**t.”  Now I don’t know about you readers but one of my lunchtime pleasures is munching through wholegrain rye bread with chick pea and lentil paste between the bread.  I also like to multi-task by checking my Yahoo account.  Combining the two activities never caused a problem until that is 25 July 2008.

Possibly I am too squeamish and sensitive, but I don’t like reading about s**t (even with the letters “i” and “t” removed) whilst eating my lunch.  The mind boggles as to how such a title was chosen. Obviously, the middle two letters had to be removed or people would think he was being rude wouldn’t they? 

I can imagine the meeting between Patrick Holford, his PR person and the publishers when they were trying to decide on a title:

Patrick: We need to show people that it is incredibly easy to quit their addictions and that doctors and dietitians are just hiding the evidence. I have been reading up on this and it is now time to expose this scandal to the world at large. How about:  “The Evidence to beat addictions without relying on doctors and dietitians especially not that horrible Catherine Collins.”

Publisher:  Hmmm …. it is a bit long. We need something short and punchy. How about: “How to Quit!!!!”

Patrick’s PR Person:  Yes, but we need to give people an incentive to change.

Publisher:  You mean you want to scare them?

Patrick’s PR Person:  Errr … would not quite put it like that.  “How to quit and live the life of your dreams.”

Publisher: I like it. Very aspirational.

Young Dip ION student intern who has just wandered in:  Heyyy, we want to capture the aspirational 20 or 30 something who wants to be wonderful without any effort or horrible side effects.  How about: “How to quit without feeling shit.”

Publisher: Errr … sounds okay, but we’ll have to replace “shit” with stars.

Young Dip ION student intern:  Ohhhhh, can we just have two stars?  Pretty please!

Patrick Holford:  I like it a book with two stars!!  The best honour I have ever been given.

Young Dip ION student intern:  Why don’t we do a national tour?  Organise some seminars and set up a website with a fancy looking questionnaire on it?

Patrick Holford:  Ha, ha. Why not?  That is what we usually do!

Publisher:  Ohhhh, go on then.


July 19, 2008

Unfortunately, the supplement programme my nutrition therapist prescribed me did not work out too well. I kept forgetting to take them what with my busy hectic lifestyle. Finally I lost all my pills whilst on holiday here – . If an Icelander came across my fish oil supplements they would probably have been very puzzled. After all they live in a country surrounded by seas crowded with lots of different kinds of fish? Heyy, don’t we as well? Ummm … anyway I’m digressing a bit. The aim of nutrition therapy was to change me in to a dynamic sexy person who would have the interesting fun-filled life he truly deserved. I then had a brainwave why not do something to improve my presentation skills?

So one week end I popped in to Basingstoke public library. A kindly librarian suggested I join Basingstoke public speaking club so not being one to disagree with a librarian that’s what I did. Public speaking proved to be less intimidating that I thought. My speeches fell in to two categories, those where I would try to be a stand up comedian and those where after lots of research I would speak on some serious topic. There was a nice lady called Beryl who came along with her husband Brian. At the time I was not really sure what they did for a living, but was vaguely aware it was something “alternative.” Brian was very impressed with my funny speeches. He thought I was a very witty and charming young man. He was similary impressed my serious ones as well and wondered how I had come to be some knowledgable about so many different subjects. “Well, I try to keep myself informed about stuff,” forgetting to mention how internet access let me browse a resource called the Wikipedia. Wouldn’t want to give all my secrets away would I readers?

One week I had to do a speech on something I was an expert on. This posed a major problem in so far as I could not think of anything I knew anything about that would not bore everyone to death. Then I had another brainwave, I would do a speech on “Nutritional Quackery” exposing Gillian McKeith and Patrick Holford. So D-Day arrived and I turned up with some props – copies of The Optimum Nutrition Bible and Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, a Gillian McKeith vitamin C bar and a bottle of Gillian McKeith juice or whatever it is called. “Ohhh,” declared Brian, “my wife Beryl is a nutritionist. Are you studying nutrition? That Patrick Holford is such a nice man. We met him kayaking with some seals in Lapland a couple of years ago.” “Oh dear, ” I thought to myself, “don’t want to upset anyone.” Still there was no backing down now. The speech had to go on.

I described the qualifications of Patrick Holford Dip ION (honorary) and Dr (sic) Gillian McKeith or errr … rather lack thereof. I spoke about hair mineral analysis and pointed out that the American Medical Association had banned its practitioners from using it. Straying away from my usual reliance on the Wikipedia I shamelessly plagiarised some information given to me by a little black duck – I went on to point out that oranges were cheaper than Gillian McKeith’s vitamin C bars and that dear Mr Holford had benefited to the tune of £464,000 by the sale of his pill company to Biocare. I concluded by recommending to my audience that they ate plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and reducing their consumption of saturated fats, salt and sugar. Finally, I threw The Optimum Nutrition Bible and Optimum Nutriton for the Mind in the bin before triumphantly holding up my rather weather beaten copy of Nutrition for Dummies – the bible of basic nutrition for idiots like myself!

As time went on I realised that many of my audience were not really with me. Afterwards feedback was invited. Beryl looked me in the eye and informed me that she had actually studied nutrition. I got the impression that out of pity or because she was speechless with rage she was holding back from launcing the full frontal intellectual verbal assault that she thought I so richly deserved. It was left to Brian to approach me after the meeting in a kindly attempt to bring me back to reality and to bring my knowledge up to speed. “You have been reading Ben Goldacre haven’t you? he asked. “Well, the kind of things he says about dear Gillian and Patrick, you can always dig up things to say about people to make them appear in a not-too-positive light.” Hmm … don’t know about you readers, but I have never exaggerated my qualifications or promoted bad science. Not sure what Ben Goldacre could write about me a column, though I cannot speak for the rest of the you. He conveniently forgot that my speech did have other sources … “The science is quite clear on these matters if you look. As for Ben Goldacre Martin Walker has rather demolished him in a book called Dirty Medicine.”

Anyway, when I got home I googled Beryl and Brian. It turned they were the proprietors of The Basingstoke Homeopathy Cabin. Their website also offered various other therapies. No wonder they were friends of Patrick Holford. But what about this Martin Walker chap? Perhaps if I read his book I would be convinced of the salvation that came to them who believed in the Lord Patrick. So I googled Martin Walker and it turned out he was a chemistry lecturer at a top American university. Gosh, obviously some one to listen to then. Then the thought occurred to me that there might actually be more than one man in the world called “Martin Walker” so I refined my research by typing in “Martin Walker” + “Dirty Medicine.” For now dear readers let’s just say THIS Martin Walker did not have a PhD in chemistry. I am sure we’ll come back to him and his “book” another time ….


June 17, 2008

As many of you will know there has been a lot of controversy regarding Patrick Holford’s 2007 appointment as a visiting Professor at the University of Teeside. (In what exactly he was a visiting we never found out as Teeside did not seem very keen on letting him call himself a professor of nutrition.)

According to Holford Watch he has resigned. This is rather puzzling as his website still mentions his visiting professorship. Moreover as far as I am aware, Teeside has not made any official announcement about his departure. Now I have no reason to doubt Holford Watch as they are usually very good at checking sources so what exactly is happening here?

My guess is that senior management at Teeside have got rather fed up with the trouble Mr Holford is causing them. They would like him to go, but have not really got the stomach to get involved in a long and drawn out legal dispute with him.  He realises he is not welcome so has offered his resignation. However, in return for departing quickly he wants some compensation. Both sides will doubtless want a confidentiality agreement.  They are probably hoping none of us have noticed what is going on, though I have a sneaking suspicion some one has already briefed Private Eye magazine. Oh dear.