Experiencing Allopathic Medicine First Hand

August 29, 2008

You may be wondering why I have not be around for a couple of weeks. Well, rather than just writing about so-called allopathic medicine I thought I would try it out first hand.

For many years I have often felt tired, a little bit unwell and sometimes rather down.  As anyone who has ever filled out a Patrick Holford questionnaire will know the previous sentence proves that I was seriously unwell.  Moreover for as long as I can remember I have had a very poor sense of smell. So, as I related in my first post, back in January 2004 I went to see one of Patrick Holford’s nutritional therapists. He prescribed me lots of pills and recommended a rather-difficult-to-follow diet.  Both the diet and pills were discarded rather quickly.

However, I still found it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.  Earlier this year one of my work colleagues told me about how he had made a claim on the company health insurance policy which led to him getting a rather helpful dose of physiotherapy. So I thought to myself, “Why don’t I make a claim?”.  Back in April I went to see my GP.  He was unable to see any source of infection so referred me to an ENT consultant.

I asked her whether she thought I had an allergy.  After all everyone else has one so why not me ?!!  But no, it turned out the solution to my problems was simpler than I thought. The left and right nostrils in my nose were twisted over.  By correcting this my nasal breathing could be regulated which would possibly help me to sleep better as well.  Such a simple problem with no need to consult any quacktitioners.  The consultant recommended a septoplasty of nose and excision of trubinate of nose – whatever that means!  After several lots of forms the insurers agreed to the claim.

At 7am on Wednesday morning I turned up at the hospital and fortunately I was first in the queue for morning surgery at 8:30am.  Having an anaesthetic was less painful than my last visit 25 years ago.  They no longer gas you, but rather put the noxious substances directly in to your blood.  How civilised. By 10:30am I was back in my room. I was hoping to be released  early afternoon, but alas my nose refused to stop bleeding until 6:00pm.  Still, I suppose there are side effects to all treatments even natural ones offered by natural practitioners, but more about that another time perhaps.  The consultant came to see me just before 6:00pm. He pronounced the operation a success and said my breathing was going to get better and better over the next two months. He did not quite say a la Patrick Holford, “this procedure will add years to your life and life to your years” but the implication was there!

Currently I feel worse than when I went in. I am very tired and my nose feels extremely sore.  Perhaps I should take some chamomile tea and evening primrose oil to help me out …..? Then when I get better I can offer myself as proof that chamomile works. Think of the TV tie ins and books to be written.

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A Letter from the Nursing and Midwifery Council

August 17, 2008

Do you remember me telling you about the article in Optimum Nutrition magazine about colonic irrigation?  The practioner concerned puts the letters “SRN” after her name. I checked online with the nursing register and also telephoned the Nursing and Midwifery Council.  However, there no trace of our colonic irrigationist or whatever the technical terms for such people is.

Now I would not want any of you to call me a grass, but I felt duty bound to write to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.  After all surely they would not want anyone promoting colonic irrigation putting the letters “SRN” after their name?

They kindly replied to my letter.  It turns out that claiming to be on the nursing register when you are not is an offence under article 44 of the Nursing and Midwifery Order 2001.

“It is important,” the writer of my letter declared, ” (…) for nurses and midwives to distinguish between their qualifications and registration status.  Nurse and midwives who allow their registration to lapse can still refer to the fact they are a qualified nurse or midwife but must not give the impression that they have a current registration.”

“However, [Ms X] is not committing any offence in using SRN after her name as this is not a title protected under the Order and is in effect the qualification awarded.”

Now, over the past year I have learnt a lot about the regulation of health professionals. I know what the the letters GMC, HPC, NTC and NMC stand for.  SRN, as I am sure you know, stands for state registered nurse.  The average member of the public such as myself see those letters and imagines there is some kind of registration in place. It would appear from the letter the NMC sent me that there is not.  They claim SRN refers to the qualification. I would have thought the nursing qualification would have been the original degree or diploma awarded on qualification.  However, it is not for me to tell the NMC how to regulate their profession.

So there you have it.  The magazine of the Institute for Optimum can publish an article encouraging you to visit some one who has not bothered to keep her registration up-to-date.   Still, hardly surprising really given how few of their members including their founder have bothered to study for qualifications that would enable themselves to be REGISTERED members of the Nutrition Society.

The Myths of Holford Myths

August 10, 2008

Patrick Holford now has a section of his website devoted to answering his critics: http://www.patrickholford.com/content.asp?id_Content=2178

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: https://leet02.wordpress.com/2008/07/12/ion-diplomates-do-not-know-enough-pharmacology/

Moreover, they do not seem to be doing much regulating at the moment: http://www.nutritionaltherapycouncil.org.uk/complaint.htm 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: http://jrsm.rsmjournals.com/cgi/content/full/97/5/211

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: http://www.patrickholford.com/content.asp?id_Content=2290 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: http://www.neutrahealthplc.com/news-item&item=61518964165446 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.

The Day of The Nutritionista Part IV

August 9, 2008

Mrs Williams was asking herself what the last eleven years had been for. It certainly was not easy being the wife of a bishop, even so when it came to being the wife of the Rt. Rev. Dr Roger Williams the Bishop of Basingstoke. She could not really understand why he had stayed in the town so long. After all with his talents he could have got himself a job at an Episcopalian seminary in the States with a salary of $200,000+. He thought Basingstoke was his vocation and because it was his vocation it became hers as well. It was not easy being married to such a popular saint, but she loved him with all her heart and her mind. Almost everyone in town had been touched by him in some way. There was only a couple of years to go until retirement and she was trying to persuade him to go and be a visiting professor somewhere hot. That, alas, was not to be as he was lying dead and cold in Basingstoke morgue.

She was brought back from her thoughts by the questioning of Captain Bellodi and Sergeant Sexton.

“Was there anyone who hated your husband Mrs Williams? Was there anyone who wanted to see him dead?”

“Oh no, everyone loved him. We even had Richard Dawkins singing at Sunday lunch one week. Well actually, we did get some trouble from a local nutrition therapist.”

“How did that come about?”

“Well, one Sunday Roger preached a sermon on splendor of Creation and the Creator having provided us with more than we could ever hope or desire. The woman concerned took it all very personally saying he had forgotten the necessity of supplements to promote a healthy life. She kept ringing us up at all hours of the day and night. She also disrupted Evensong one Wednesay. Most unpleasant. Nettlay Publishing became upset when Roger chose a small local book store to publish one of his books. ”

“Any other enemies?”

” Well, the Dean of Woking coveted his job – horrible man!”

Anne Nick-Dote was one of the few people in Basingstoke not sorry about the death of Bishop Roger. She immediately went on Radio Basingstoke to say he deserved his death due to his lack of support for orthomolecular medicine. Strange how everyone used to say what a “nice” person she was. Unfortunately, when the sheep lose their shepherd things turn nasty. Within a few hours the windows of Basingstoke Nutritionists had been smashed and her car tyres had been slashed. The police advised her that it was perhaps prudent not to open until after things had calmed down. More importantly her poll ratings in the Basingstoke by-election were falling. It looked as though her campaign was doomed. Fortunately, Paddy Whole-Food the world’s greatest nutritionist had taken an interest in the campaign. He gave her a ring to offer the services of her PR team. What else could an aspiring politician want?

Later that evening he was a guest on BBC Basingstoke’s political hour with Jezza Pacman.

“Thank you for joing us Mr Whole-Food. You have certainly been the subject of a lot of controversy recently. Can you comment on the allegations that Basingstoke FE College appointed you as its acting honorary deputy lecturer in nutrition in exchange for cash?”

“Well, not exactly the School of Social Sciences is doing some trials with fish oil supplements in local Basingstoke primary schools. The Nettlay Corporation are kindly funding the venture.”

“Don’t they produce fish oil supplements. Is there any control group? Aren’t you the head of research of Nettlay Neutraceutical?”

“Well, we don’t really need a control group as we already know fish oil supplementation works. Beside it would be too expensive.”

“Hmmm … The Nettlay Corporation did have pre-tax profits of £200million last year so you would have thought they could have found a small amount of cash to do a proper controlled experiement. There have been some strange goings on in Basingsoke recently. What was your reaction to the death of the Rt. Rev. Roger Williams?”

“Well, of course it was a tragedy. Although supporters of orthomolecular medicine had their differences with the bishop we recognise that all those in favour of optimum nutrition have to work together. That’s why myself and Anne Nick-Dote are working with the Dean of Woking to help out with his memorial service which takes place on Friday.”

“What are your plans for the next few months Mr Whole-Food?”

“I was afraid you would never ask that Jezza. I have a new book out to help people cure their addictions called “How to Buck up without Fucking up.”

“I beg your pardon Mr Whole-Food ????!!!! This the BBC you know. Swearing before the watershed is one thing, but you are also guilty of product placement.”

“Ummm … sorry. The book title is actually “How to Buck up without ****ing up.”

“Get out of my studio. At least Radovan never swore when I met him.”

Coincidentally the Dean of Woking organised the memorial service to take place three days before polling day. The eulogy at the service was given by Anne Nick-Dote – rather strange given she had never met the late and much lamented bishop. Mrs Williams was none too pleased. Try to to imagine yourself in her position readers.

“Now my friends is the hour of decision. Are you FOR or against optimum nutrition? The choice is yours!”

(So who do you think murdered Bishop Williams readers? Was it Paddy Whole-Food, Anne-Nick Dote, the Dean of Woking or some one else ???)

To be continued ….

Chairman of Police Federation fails to understand need for the rule of law

August 5, 2008

An article I read in the newspaper a couple of days ago has been deeply troubling me. You have probably seen it. Back in December 2003, an American national David Bieber shot dead a policeman and injured two others. The judge sent him to prison and he was also given a whole life tariff. He appealed against this and the whole life tariff has recently been reduced to 37 years: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2493781/Judiciary-accused-of-having-blood-on-their-hands–over-police-killer-sentence.html

Now some people reading this probably belong to the hang-and-flog ‘em school of thought. I don’t subscribe to that kind of philosophy myself, but would ask the hangers and floggers at The Daily Mail to reflect on the fact Mr Bieber is going to be in his seventies before he is released. It is not like he is going to be out and about in four or five years time. Many people don’t appear to believe that convicted criminals should be treated decently. Again that is not a view I share. However, I don’t want to get in to a discussion about punishment and human rights. (There is an excellent discussion of the case at the excellent UK Liberty blog: http://ukliberty.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/police-killers-sentence-changed-judges-in-trouble-again/. Thanks to UK Liberty so linking to the case itself: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2008/1601.html )

What has been troubling me are the comments of Paul McKeever, the chairman of the Police Federation. He recently wrote a letter to the Lord Chief Justice in which he said: “Granting an evil calculated killer any kind of dispensation is criminal and leaves the judiciary with blood on its hands.” He goes on to urge the Lord Chief Justice to do whatever he can to reverse the decision. I had to read Mr McKeever’s letter several times as was I was initially unable to believe some one with responsibility for representing the police could write something so intemperate and inflammatory.

One of the best things about Britain is the rule of law and the fact we have an independent judiciary. Supposedly, the judiciary are independent of the police and parliament. What exactly was Mr McKeever expecting the Lord Chief Justice to do? Possibly he thought he should unilaterally reverse the decision of the judges at the Court of Appeal. Is there any precedent allowing him to do this? I very much doubt it so what we have here is the chairman of the Police Federation urging the Lord Chief Justice to ignore constitutional precedent. He accused the judges of having blood on their hands which would imply they had something to do with the murder of the police officer! It is the kind of language you expect from some one ranting away at the pub after a few drinks. Certainly it shows no respect for the rule of law. The Northern Ireland solicitors Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane were murdered by people who thought they had blood on their hands as result of defending members of the IRA. Possibly Mr McKeever wrote his comment in anger. If that is the case perhaps he would now like to apologise. I particularly liked the comment of Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty: “Police officers, like judges, serve the rule of law which protects everyone. Mr McKeever should reflect on the wisdom of showing such disdain for it.”

What he and the Police Federation could do is discreetly urge the Ministry of Justice to appeal to the House of Lords. That would be a more constitutionally sound way of behaving than urging the Lord Chief Justice to do all he can to reverse the decision. Another option would be to lobby parliament to change law. They might want to ask for mandatory life sentences for police killers or even the return of the death penalty. How compatible this would be with The Human Rights Act is open to debate. However, we could even repeal this act or even withdraw from The Council of Europe. A much better solution would be for The Police Federation to stop writing menacing letters to judges and concentrate on what it is supposed to be doing, that is representing the interests of police officers.

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! http://www.how2quit.co.uk/content.asp?id_Content=2380

Publisher:  Ohhhh, go on then.

Recipe of the Week Number I

July 31, 2008

Now you may think the fact you have a blog means you do not have to think about optimum nutrition. After all you’re thinking to yourself, “Well I’m doing the world a favour by offering a thoughtful critique of alternative medicine etc. I’ll just pop a lasagne in the microwave and munch through that later.

That’s NOT good enough. If you eat too much processed food you will get fat and, at some point in the future, you will die. Supporters of alternative medicine will see how fat you are and think that is where is a scientific world view leads you.

Don’t worry help is at hand with my nutritious recipes of the week!

For our first recipe you will need some broccoli, wholegrain rice and salmon fillets. (The broccoli and salmon are both available in the Sainsbury’s Basics range.) If you are in a hurry risotto or white rice will do though bear in mind the British Dietetic Association’s advice on wholegrains.

Firstly bring a pan of water to the boiling point. Then addd 75g of rice. Bring to boil again and simmer. Meanwhile turn on the grill. After 20 minutes place the salmon fillet under the grill. Grill for five minutes on the “skin” side before turning over and doing ten minutes on the other side. About five minutes before the salmon is finished put four broccoli florets in with the rice.

Empty the rice/broccoli mixture on to a plate. Put the salmon fillet on top. Finally drizzle with extra virgin Palestinian olive oil. (More about the olive oil next month.)

There you go! Idiot proof and much tastier than one of Gillian McKeith’s detox diets.

Getting to the Perfect Body

July 26, 2008

As I was trying to keep up with the conveyor belt at the gym this evening a flash of nutritional inspiration occurred to me. Now, I am not aware of anyone else noticing this so just remember you read it here first!

Patrick Holford, Gillian McKeith and that guy-whose-name-I-have-forgotten with the juicing book all promise that you can lose weight quickly but ONLY if you do what they say. Now I am wondering how many of you have ascended the scales only to discover you have put on 2kg over the last ten days? I would guess not many of you. For most of us we eat a little bit more sugar and fat than we should which leads to us increasing our weight over a period of several months. So why is it that so many of us expect to lose weight in, say, seven days?

If you have put on weight over the last six months why not take six months to get rid of it? That is what I am trying to do. I have lost about 3kg over the last two months and am hoping to get rid of another 3kg over the next three months. Gently does it. What is more there is scant evidence that detox or crash diets actually work.

Perhaps, dear readers, when I have finished I’ll post one of those do-you-want-a-body-like-mine pictures on to the blog?

Optimum Nutrition Down a Mine!

July 25, 2008

We have been off on holiday for a few days readers. Have you missed us? Possibly you have not noticed we have been gone?

We have been cycling up and down hills and alongside meandering rivers, meadows and streams. Can you guess where we have been? Yes, that’s right The Wye Valley. We did hope to stay in touch with you all, but alas the internet connection was down at Chepstow library and it was impossible to get a signal on our mobile ‘phone. “Still,” we thought to ourselves, “there may be no internet, but at least there are no nutrition therapists.” Unfortunately, this was not the case as we soon saw a sign advertising the services of Chepstow Natural Health Clinic which was apparently established in 1992: http://www.m-cnhc.co.uk/chepstow/therapy.php?therapy=allergy.php Little wonder I suppose given that the place is under the dominion of his Royal Quackness, the Prince of Wales.

Some of you may be screaming that you can’t afford a holiday and that is a credit crunch on. In these rather tough times you need to be a complementary therapist with fees of £70 an hour before you can afford to travel away to exotic locations. Well, we have to confess to being really poor ourselves so we bought ourselves a saver advanced rail fare from Basingstoke to Chepstow. We have also been re-discovering the joys of youth hostelling. Did you know you can use them without being young or having any children with you? So for the princely sum of £16 a night we were able to stay at an ancient royal hunting lodge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Briavels

It was great fun visiting Tintern Abbey – a medieval structure in ruins and without a roof. The place seemed like an apt metaphor for the philosophy of Patrick Holford and his chums: http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/default.asp?id=6&PlaceID=132

The most exciting part of the trip was visiting Clearwell Mine, an iron ore mine in the heart of The Royal Forest of Dean. The mine had a tea room attached offering a fresh smoothie to help you reach your five-a-day. It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss as my only previous encounters with Smoothies have been via Sainsbury’s! It was a truly refreshing experience. I now know why miners were so full of energy and able to get through the day. They just popped in to the tea room and ordered themselves a smoothie.

Further down the mine things did not look so good on the nutritional front. Apparently, they would take a flask of cold tea down with them with lots of sugar in it. As we know from Optimum for the Mind sugar makes you crazy. Perhaps that is why the crazy old miner Aneurin Bevan decided to set up the NHS? The establishment of the NHS meant there was considerable less demand for quack remedies in working class communities. That might be why some therapists hate the NHS so much. The tea was without milk. You may think that would lead to a calcium deficiency. It most certainly did not as once the tea ran out the miners would drink water that had filtered through the rocks in the ceiling above. For extra nourishment there was a cottage loaf. I did wonder whether it was wholemeal or not … Probably as white bread is a recent invention by pharmaceutical companies to make us ill and dependent on their products.

So as you can see readers The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean is a haven of optimum nutrition. The probable reason for this state of affairs is the fact the region is protected by ancient forests, woods and rivers. Look on a map and you will see that no motorway passes through the area. How uncanny and mysterious?

Unfortunately, supermarkets selling white bread have started appearing in Chepstow, Monmouth and Coleford. You know what the area needs. Yes, that’s right a Dip ION!

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I JOINED BASINGSTOKE PUBLIC SPEAKING CLUB

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 – http://www.hostel.is/default.asp?cat_id=51 . 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 – http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/04/pulling-my-hair-out.html. 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 ….