Patrick Holford – “Food Is Better Than Medicine” South Africa Tour Blighted By HIV Claim

February 27th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in africa, bad science, matthias rath, nutritionists, patrick holford | 64 Comments »

Here’s a bit of a data dump of some of the critical news coverage that Patrick Holford’s “Food Is Better Than Medicine” tour of South Africa has picked up. They’re not very impressed in Africa by his claim that vitamin C is better than AZT, and Holford seems a bit conflicted over it himself. Here’s a typical news quote…

He has also denied news reports which he said implied he had been saying vitamin C was more effective in treating Aids than the ARV medication, AZT. “This is not true,” he said at the weekend. “I have never made this claim. “What I have said in the latest edition of my book, the New Optimum Nutrition Bible… is that ‘AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C’.”

And reassuringly, meanwhile, Rath researcher Raxit Jariwalla seems to have backed down somewhat. Here is his original statement in support of Holford 16/1/07 published online by Holford:

Patrick Holford’s conclusion that ‘AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is proving less effective than vitamin C’, as interpreted from the results of our experiments, is correct. In two published studies [1, 2], in which we compared vitamin C to AZT in chronically and latently infected cells, our experiments consistently showed that AZT was less effective than vitamin C. I made this clear in my letter to the Guardian published on 20 January 2005 and am surprised that the Guardian journalist continues to wrongly accuse Mr Holford as being ‘guilty of at least incompetence’ for making a conclusion which is scientifically valid.

Mr Holford has been familiar with our work all along but mistakenly cited the wrong paper in his book when concluding that AZT is less effective than vitamin C. After realizing that this citation was an honest mistake, Mr Holford has changed the reference in his soon to be published latest edition. This does not change the fact that the original interpretation made by Mr Holford is true since our work demonstrated it to be so and the citation of the wrong paper on his part was in reality an innocent error and not an act of ‘incompetence’ or a case of ‘bad science’.

And here is his new statement, in a letter 21/2/07 published by Holford online [edit - Holford has now taken this second letter off his website]:

I wish to clarify that my concurrence with Patrick Holford¹s statement that AZT is proving less effective than vitamin C is supportive of a conclusion that pertains specifically to interpretation of results of our lab experiments with HIV-infected cells (as reported in the above two studies) and not to any claims about HIV in people.

So, what a turn-up, all very unexpected. I must say I find Holford’s claims quite extraordinary in a country with 5 million HIV positive, who have only recently managed to wrestle antiretroviral medication from an HIV denialist government obsessed with using nutritional cures instead, and such a tragic recent history with vitamin pill manufacturers exploiting the situation, and about a disease that has killed 25 million people worldwide, with 40 million HIV positive. I absolutely weep. Anyway, here’s a selection of media coverage for those who are interested.

www.andnetwork.com/index?service=direct/0/Home/older.fullStory&sp=l208400

Aids nutritionist linked to Rath
February 24, 2007, 3 days, 11 hours and 50 minutes ago. By (AND) – www.andnetwork.com
The scientist backing nutritionist Patrick Holford’s claims on vitamin C and Aids was one of the key speakers at a conference organised by the controversial Dr Matthias Rath in Johannesburg just more than a year ago. Holford, who claims vitamin C is more effective in treating Aids than an antiretroviral drug, is giving a series of workshops in South Africa.

www.health-e.org.za/news/article.php?uid=20031604

allafrica.com/stories/200702210872.html

South Africa: Holford Makes ‘Mindboggling’ Aids Claim
Health-e (Cape Town)
February 21, 2007

Kerry Cullinan
Popular British nutritionist Patrick Holford, currently on tour in South Africa, has caused a storm by claiming that Vitamin C is more effective in treating AIDS than the antiretroviral drug AZT.
Holford uses research by the controversial Rath Foundation’s Raxit Jariwalla, to back his claim, which he made most recently in a letter to the Guardian newspaper last week.
However, in response Guardian columnist and medical doctor Ben Goldacre called Holford’s claim “mindboggling”.
“What is Holford’s evidence for this bizarre, repeated AIDS claim?” writes Goldacre. “Firstly, he cites two small studies done on cells in a dish on a laboratory bench, using vitamin C and AZT. This is farcically weak evidence.”
The second piece of “evidence”, says Goldacre, is “more worrying” as it is simply a letter from Jariwalla stating that Holford is right.
Meanwhile, University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Professor Nigel Rollins, a member of the World Health Organisation’s advisory group on nutrition, says there is “no substantiated evidence that a single vitamin either reduces the viral load of improves the CD4 count of people living with HIV”.
“There is a well established process in science to test whether an intervention is helpful,” adds Rollins. “Without this proof, it is misleading to make such claims and encourage people to put their hopes and money into something unfounded.”
But Holford stands by his claim in his letter and says that “the real crime here is that no full-scale human trials have been funded on vitamin C to follow up Jariwalla’s important findings because it is non-patentable and hence not profitable”.
The Rath Foundation has been controversial in South Africa as its founder, Dr Matthias Rath, has encouraged people with HIV to abandon their medication in favour of his vitamins.
Holford had close links with one of Dr Rath’s mentors, the late Dr Linus Pauling, who was patron of Holford’s Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION). Pauling advocated that vitamin C could prevent colds and treat cancer.
AZT was the world’s first HIV treatment. Initially, it was the only antiretroviral drug available and while it slowed the growth of the virus, used alone and in large doses, it did have some serious side effects.
However, today AZT is used far more successfully in smaller doses as part of the standard three-drug regimen prescribed for people with AIDS.
Holford, who has his own range of vitamins, is running workshops in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__national/&articleid=300160

Aids nutritionist linked to Rath

Cape Town, South Africa
24 February 2007 07:21

The scientist backing nutritionist Patrick Holford’s claims on vitamin C and Aids was one of the key speakers at a conference organised by the controversial Dr Matthias Rath in Johannesburg just more than a year ago.

Holford, who is currently giving a series of workshops in South Africa, claims that the vitamin is more effective in treating Aids than the antiretroviral drug azidothymidine, commonly known as AZT.

He quotes as substantiation for the claim laboratory findings by Dr Raxit Jariwalla, who was one of the speakers at a December 2005 Dr Rath Health Foundation conference in Johannesburg titled The Natural Control of Aids.

According to the foundation website, Jariwalla is “a senior researcher in nutrition and infectious diseases at the Dr Rath Research Institute in California, USA”.

Sharing the platform with Jariwalla in Johannesburg were prominent Aids dissidents Dr David Rasnick, from the United States, and South Africa’s Professor Sam Mhlongo.

In his presentation, according to the website, Jariwalla put forward “numerous studies by other scientists that confirm the benefits of vitamins against Aids”.

Vitamin claim
Holford first made the vitamin-C claim in his book The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, published in 2004.

The claim was rubbished at the time by the Guardian newspaper’s irreverent medical columnist Dr Ben Goldacre, who said a Jariwalla study Holford cited was not a comparative study of vitamin C and AZT.

“The paper doesn’t even contain the word AZT. Not once,” Goldacre said.

Jariwalla responded that Holford’s claim was, in fact, correct, and was supported by other papers — not the one cited in the Nutrition Bible.

The controversy resurfaced this month after Goldacre reported that Holford’s online Wikipedia biographical entry had been anonymously edited by his own public relations agent. Goldacre noted that among the material deleted from the entry was all reference to the vitamin-C controversy.

In the same column, Goldacre questioned Holford’s lack of academic qualifications in the nutrition arena and referred to him a “self-styled ‘nutritionist’”.

Holford replied in a letter published in the newspaper on February 16, repeating his assertion that the vitamin-C claim was correct.

“The real crime here is that no full-scale human trials have been funded on vitamin C to follow up Jariwalla’s important finding because it is non-patentable and hence not profitable,” he said.

He also denied that he had, as Goldacre claimed, conferred a nutrition diploma on himself through the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, which he founded in 1984. He said the award came from the institution’s board of trustees, on which he did not sit.

‘Health tour’
On his current “health tour” to South Africa, his half-day seminars and workshops, being held in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, cost between R295 and R595.

Participants, his publicists say, will learn how to improve their health and wellness, balance their blood sugar levels and burn fat.

Holford recently published a book titled Food Is Better Medicine than Drugs.

Rath and his foundation have been criticised by doctors and Aids activists for advocating that people with Aids take his commercially prepared vitamins rather than “toxic” antiretrovirals.

He has been tacitly backed by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who herself has advocated a lemon, beetroot and garlic diet for people with HIV/Aids.

Rath is suing the Democratic Alliance and its former health spokesperson Diane Kohler-Barnard over a claim that he is a “charlatan”. — Sapa
Related articles
• Special report: Aids, TB and malaria

www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,9294,2-7-1442_2074699,00.html

UK ‘guru’ denies links to Rath
25/02/2007 20:15 – (SA)
Cape Town – British nutrition guru Patrick Holford, who is touring South Africa, says he has no links to the Rath Foundation, and does not advise people to stop taking antiretrovirals.
He has also denied news reports which he said implied he had been saying vitamin C was more effective in treating Aids than the ARV medication, AZT.
“This is not true,” he said at the weekend. “I have never made this claim.
“What I have said in the latest edition of my book, the New Optimum Nutrition Bible… is that ‘AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C’.”
‘Impeccably conducted research’
It was reported last week that the laboratory study on which Holford based this sentence was conducted by Dr Raxit Jariwalla, whom the foundation lists as one of its researchers, and who was one of the key speakers at a foundation conference in South Africa just over a year ago.
Holford said Jariwalla’s “robust and impeccably conducted research”, published in leading peer-reviewed journals, warranted following up with trials with human volunteers.
“The real crime here is that no full-scale human trials have been funded on vitamin C to follow up Jariwalla’s important finding, probably because it is non-patentable and hence not profitable,” Holford said.
“Until such a trial is done we will not know to what extent vitamin C can act as an antiretroviral agent…
“It does not mean that people should stop taking AZT and I am not advocating this.”
He said Jariwalla’s original research was undertaken at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in 1990, “long before the existence of the Rath Foundation”.
Holford said he had no association “whatsoever” with the foundation and had never met or spoken with its founder, Dr Matthias Rath – who, coincidentally, also trained under Pauling.
He said that in addition to Jariwalla’s research, clinical studies by other researchers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals had documented beneficial effects of vitamin C and other nutrients in HIV-infected people.
In one experiment with a small subgroup of advanced Aids patients, administration of high-dose vitamin C and N-acetyl-cysteine was linked to reduced HIV viral load and improved immune cell (CD4) count.
Suing the Democratic Alliance
Rath and his foundation have been criticised by doctors and Aids activists for advocating that people with Aids take his commercially-prepared vitamins rather than “toxic” ARVs.
He has been tacitly backed by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.
Rath is suing the Democratic Alliance in connection with a claim that he is a “charlatan”, after himself losing a defamation action brought by the Treatment Action Campaign, which he claimed was a front for pharmaceutical companies.

Here is a statement from Patrick Holford:

www.p atrickho lford.co m/content.a sp?id_Content=1778

Patrick Holford HIV Vitamin C Statement

In the latest edition of Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible I report on ‘in vitro’ trials on human T-cells infected with HIV, comparing the anti-viral effect of AZT with vitamin C. I say that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C (Ref 23)”

Ref 23. These ‘in vitro’ studies on human T-cells shows that vitamin C suppresses the HIV virus in both chronically and latently infected cells, while AZT has no significant effect. It is a tragedy that this simple, non-toxic treatment hasn’t been further tested.

Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ.Ascorbate effect on cytokine stimulation of HIV production.
Nutrition. 1995 Sep-Oct;11(5 Suppl):684-7.

Also see:

Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ – NF-kappa B-independent suppression of HIV expression by ascorbic acid,
AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1997 Feb 10;13(3):235-9.

Harakeh S, Niedzwiecki A, Jariwalla RJ. Mechanistic aspects of ascorbate inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus.
Chem Biol Interact. 1994 Jun;91(2-3):207-15.

Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ. Comparative study of the anti-HIV activities of ascorbate and thiol-containing reducing agents in chronically HIV-infected cells.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Dec;54(6 Suppl):1231S-1235S.

Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ, Pauling L. Suppression of human immunodeficiency virus replication by ascorbate in chronically and acutely infected cells.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Sep;87(18):7245-9.

This robust and impeccably conducted research, published in the most prestigious journal of the National Academy of Sciences, warrants following up with ‘in vivo’ trials. Read here what the author, Dr Raxit Jariwalla, has to say. The real crime here is that no full scale human trials have been funded on vitamin C to follow up Jariwalla’s important finding probably because it is non-patentable and hence not profitable. Until such a trial is done we will not know to what extent vitamin C can act as an anti-retroviral agent. The non-toxicity of vitamin C, compared to AZT, make the need for this research of paramount importance.

The abstracts of the two key papers are shown below.

STUDY SHOWING THAT VITAMIN C IS A POTENT SUPPRESSOR OF HIV ACTIVATION

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Sep;87(18):7245-9.Click here to read

STUDY SHOW THAT VITAMIN C OUTPERFORMS AZT IN SUPPRESSING HIV VIRUS ACTIVATION

Nutrition. 1995 Sep-Oct;11(5 Suppl):684-7.

EDIT

Lengthy statement from Holford just emailed to me, pasted below. They’ve ignored my emails and requests for interview however.

Statement from Patrick Holford

Recent media reports have implied that I have been saying that Vitamin C is more effective in treating AIDS than the anti-retroviral drug AZT. This is not true. I have never made this claim.

What I have said in the latest edition of my book, the New Optimum Nutrition Bible, reporting on ‘in vitro’ trials on human T-cells infected with HIV, comparing the anti-viral effect of AZT with vitamin C is that “AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C (Ref 23).’ Ref 23 states ‘These ‘in vitro’ studies on human T-cells shows that vitamin C suppresses the HIV virus in both chronically and latently infected cells, while AZT has no significant effect. It is a tragedy that this simple, non-toxic treatment hasn’t been further tested.’ It then lists the six relevant published studies, the full references and summaries of which are available on www.pa trickhol ford.com/HIV or on medline, via google by entering ‘jariwalla + HIV’.

This robust and impeccably conducted research, published in the most prestigious journal of the National Academy of Sciences and other leading peer-reviewed journals, warrants following up with ‘in vivo’ trials with human volunteers. The real crime here is that no full scale human trials have been funded on vitamin C to follow up Jariwalla’s important finding probably because it is non-patentable and hence not profitable. Until such a trial is done we will not know to what extent vitamin C can act as an anti-retroviral agent. The non-toxicity of vitamin C, compared to AZT, make the need for this research of paramount importance. It does not mean that people should stop taking AZT and I am not advocating this. I have no association with the Rath Foundation whatsoever and have never met or spoken with Dr Rath. Furthermore, Jariwalla’s original research was conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute of Sceince and Medicine, and co-authored by twice Nobel Prize winner Dr Linus Pauling, in 1990, long before the existence of the Rath Foundation.

In addition, to Jariwalla’s research, clinical studies by other researchers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals have documented beneficial effects of vitamin C (and other nutrients) in HIV-infected persons. Thus, in HIV-infected adults, supplementation with vitamins C and E was shown to prevent oxidative damage to DNA promoted by AZT (J Clin Invest 102: 4-9, 1998). In another placebo-controlled trial of vitamin C and E supplementation, the researchers reported significantly lowered oxidative stress (associated with HIV infection or antiretroviral treatment) and a trend toward reduction in HIV virus level in blood (AIDS 12: 1653-59, 1998).
In a small subgroup of advanced AIDS patients, administration of high-dose vitamin C and NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) was linked to reduced HIV viral load, improved immune cell (CD4) count and lymphocyte proliferation (Eur J Clin Invest 30: 905-14, 2000). Additionally, several studies using multivitamins (that include vitamins C and E in the composition) have reported positive benefits in HIV-infected individuals, as reviewed recently (AIDS 19:847-861, 2005).

Patrick Holford
Founder of Institute for Optimum Nutrition

* Patrick Holford is currently on a media and lecture tour in South Africa promoting his new book, Food is Better Medicine Than Drugs, which provides nutritional approaches to diabetes, heart disease, depression and arthritis. Neither the book nor the lecture tour covers the subject of AIDS.

Ref 23: Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ. Ascorbate effect on cytokine stimulation of HIV production.
Nutrition. 1995 Sep-Oct;11(5 Suppl):684-7. Also see
Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ. NF-kappa B-independent suppression of HIV expression by ascorbic acid.
AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 1997 Feb 10;13(3):235-9.
Harakeh S, Niedzwiecki A, Jariwalla RJ. Mechanistic aspects of ascorbate inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus. Chem Biol Interact. 1994 Jun;91(2-3):207-15.
Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ. Comparative study of the anti-HIV activities of ascorbate and thiol-containing reducing agents in chronically HIV-infected cells. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Dec;54(6 Suppl):1231S-1235S.
Harakeh S, Jariwalla RJ, Pauling L. Suppression of human immunodeficiency virus replication by ascorbate in chronically and acutely infected cells.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Sep;87(18):7245-9.

Ends

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF PATRICK HOLFORD BY:

CRAIG DOONAN
LEAP COMMUNICATIONS
CAPE TOWN
Cell: 083-463-1827
Tel: (021) 785-3683
Fax: (021) 785-4957
Email: craig@leapcommunications.co.za
Website: www.leapcommunications.co.za


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64 Responses



  1. pv said,

    February 27, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    As someone on the forum pointed out, exactly the same claims can be made for soap as for vitamin C with regard to test tube experiments to which he referred.
    On thinking about this I am of the opinion that Mr Holford’s original plan was to make a lot of sales (of book and vitamin C tablets) on the back of the in vitro claim. In the eventuality that the claim is demonstrated not to be the case when transferred to humans he would have stated that he only ever claimed the effect of vitamin C in vitro, and move on to the next scam – his reputation in tact.
    Does that sound too cynical? Or does anyone think that he actually believes all the stuff he spouts?
    He claims he never said vitamin C is more effective than AZT. Instead he claims he said AZT is less effective than vitamin C. So he’s got out of that one then!
    About the only positive claim one can make for Mr Holford, since he seems to have plenty of credulous followers, is that he isn’t guilty of overestimating the intelligence of his audience. What else can one say that’s nice about a man who would stoop so low in order to make a fortune?

  2. Seany said,

    February 27, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Good work.

    Interesting to see the following included in PH’s statement:

    “Ref 23. These ‘in vitro’ studies on human T-cells shows that vitamin C suppresses the HIV virus in both chronically and latently infected cells, while AZT has no significant effect. It is a tragedy that this simple, non-toxic treatment hasn’t been further tested.”

    So drizzling Vitamin C over some HIV infected cells in a petri dish is a “treatment” is it? If he had an ounce of self respect he’d apologise for being either incredibly thick or deliberately dishonest.

  3. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 27, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    The South African press are obviously more objective, and thus hostile to the amateur musings of this self-styled nutritionist than the UK media (bar Ben) – but perhaps the magnitude and inept management of the HIV crisis on that continent concentrates their critical thinking when reporting on Holford Half-Truths (HHTs).

    One can just imagine how Holford was expecting a statesman-like welcome for his odious nutritional musings, but instead got the ‘real world’ media reception instead.

    And how typical / political of Holford to try and back-track from this inevitable debacle by implying the MEDIA were wrong to interpret his previous ‘definitive’ HHT statements on Vitamin C and HIV in the way he wrote and promoted them. He must be concerned – judging by the attempt to distance himself from the alt.nutritionists he previously embraced as sharing a common evangelical nutrition platform.

    Quod me nutrit me destruit

    The perfect motto for Patrick

  4. Mr Scopes said,

    February 27, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    One point ignored in all this is that it is seems self-evident that person in poverty living with HIV with or without AZT is in trouble. Meagre rations and dirty water limit the life of even healthy people.

    I don’t know if it could be done ethically but a study comparing the factors would be illuminating.

  5. wanger said,

    February 27, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    “This is not true, I have never made that claim” .. “What I did was to paraphrase that claim, in my book I have out”.

    damn it, got himself off the hook on a technicality.

  6. syslinkdown said,

    February 27, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    I would love to see a television debate!
    It could have Holford vs. Ben… But then who would judge?

  7. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 27, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    he suggested a debate ages ago, i said yes immediately (i was extremely keen), but then he posted on his site all this nonsense the basic message of which was he had “challenged” me and i had chickened out! then he refused to respond to numerous emails for 6 weeks, asking him to justify this, i forwarded the email thread (in which i said “yes” and he said “i’ll get back to you” and then never did) and still he kept this ridiculous false defamatory allegation that i refused to debate him online on his site. absolutely ridiculous. i’ve asked him if i can post our whole correspondence online so people can see it and he refuses to answer. absolutely bizarre, bafflingly unpleasant, i’ve honestly never seen anything like it before in my life. this is simply not how serious people carry on.

  8. Filias Cupio said,

    February 28, 2007 at 12:17 am

    So set a time and a forum where you’ll debate him, widely publicise it, and then see if he comes.

    Perhaps give him a choice of times, but with a default time which will be used if he doesn’t make a choice.

  9. imagineyoung said,

    February 28, 2007 at 12:25 am

    “So set a time and a forum where you’ll debate him, widely publicise it, and then see if he comes.”

    Great idea – on the front page of the paper you scribble for – set up a challenge to a man (?) who’s supporting an unproven dangerous approach to AIDS which will help more people to die quicker.

  10. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 28, 2007 at 12:25 am

    i see where youre coming from, but if two people think a debate would be interesting then they get on and see if they can organise it in a civilised fashion. i don’t see any need to be butch about it, i find his behaviour over this whole non-episode utterly baffling and absurd and i’m certainly not stooping to that level myself.

  11. superburger said,

    February 28, 2007 at 8:29 am

    You know how there is a Cancer Act in the UK, which says you can’t pretend to be able to cure or treat cancer unless you can back those claims?

    Perhaps we need an AIDS Act in the UK, to stop people implying, or claiming, to be able to cure or treat HIV/AIDS. It would be easy to make it like anti child sex laws – going abroad to do it is no defence.

    Just a thought.

  12. simongates said,

    February 28, 2007 at 9:38 am

    “the real crime here is that no full-scale human trials have been funded on vitamin C to follow up Jariwalla’s important findings”

    What’s he proposing here – a trial of vitamin C versus AZT? I can’t imagine any ethics committee in the world allowing that to go ahead. And even if they did, no doctor in the world would recruit anyone. Imagine the discussion about consent: “you’ll have an equal chance of receiving a treatment that is know to be effective, or one that a nutritionist with no expertise in the subject thinks might work on the basis of a couple of experiments in the lab, and no data at all in live humans. But it probably won’t poison you.”

    I suppose another possibility would be a trial of standard treatment plus loads of vitamin C versus standard treatment – but that wouldn’t be testing the claim that vitamin C is better than AZT, SORRY AZT is worse than vitamin C.

  13. pv said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:28 am

    That he is a either a lying or misguided fool is neither here nor there. As long as Mr Holford is raking in the dough, what does it matter who lives or dies? The most important thing is Mr Holford’s greatness and celebrity, and wealth. Surely!

  14. Lurkinggherkin said,

    February 28, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I wonder what Patrick Holford will have to say about this study:

    uk.news.yahoo.com/28022007/397/vitamins-increase-risk-death-0.html

    Have you seen this study yet, Ben? Just wondered what your take on it was.

  15. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 28, 2007 at 11:20 am

    i cannot wait to see his comments reported. i do hope someone picks them up.

  16. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 28, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    superburger — why just cancer and AIDS though? It ought to be illegal to make unwarranted claims to be able to cure any disease (especially if you’re charging money for it)… This is already true in certain circumstances (e.g. drugs labelling), does anyone know what the law on other things like food supplements is?

    Andrew.

  17. testtubebabe said,

    February 28, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    I’m new to this and have been catching up on all the previous stuff while ‘working’, hem. Has to be done Ben. V good stuff, theres just so much misunderstanding out there, which leads me to… Way of topic I know and I apologise but I have just read some where that someone links Samaritans to religion. NOT TRUE! We were given the name by the public and it stuck. I cannot stress enough that we all are totally areligious in every way and are there for ANYONE of any faith, race, belief etc. Wish we were called something else….

  18. Crispy Duck said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    In the interest of balance, here is a report of some proper scientific work being done to improve HIV/AIDS therapies. (Not that it should matter, but I currently work for one of the companies mentioned).

    www.nytimes.com/2007/02/28/health/28hiv.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

  19. DaveM said,

    February 28, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Where do you find Vitamin C? In lemons…. so see this 2002 New Scientist article:

    www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn2910

    I wonder what the form of acorbate Rath used!!

  20. gadgeezer said,

    February 28, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    I’m constantly amazed at some of the claims about Vitamin C – I’ve just come across a piece in which the writer is describing the lack of evidence related to the vaccines v. vitamins claims of anti-vaxers. She’s been trolled by a proponent of ‘vaccine injuries lead to vitamin deficiencies that are misdiagnosed as shaken baby syndrome’. I had no idea that these theories were out there.

    The more people like Holford get coverage for their ideas that we are all part of a hidden epidemic of clinical and sub-clinical vitamin and mineral deficiencies because of our ‘inadequate’ western diets, the more it establishes a landscape of distrust that makes parents fearful of their simplest actions. And the more credence it lends to the magic of vitamin supplementation despite the findings just reported in JAMA.

  21. Andrew Taylor said,

    February 28, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I see, so he’s not saying the vitamin is more effective than the drug; he’s saying the drug is less effective than the vitamin. That’s alright, then.

  22. Kells said,

    February 28, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Good work – PH goes on what he thinks is a money raking easy tour of SA only to be speared time and again by the good Dr G. It must feel good to know that writing your column can have this effect even if that is not your primary reason for writing it. He must squirm everytime he ses another article quoting you from the other side of the world!

    Ha Ha Ha

  23. Delster said,

    February 28, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    the only think i can see from reading all the quoted blurb at the top is the vit C & E help reduce some of the side effects of the AZT… mind you i did read it fairly rapidly… work intruding again!

    if A is better than B then it also follows that B is not as good as A. The 2 statement’s are effectivly the same.

  24. steck said,

    February 28, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    Here is a link to an excellent 2005 Paper about “nutritional supplements”:-

    www.rickross.com/reference/mannatech/mannatech4.pdf

  25. BotswanaSceptic said,

    February 28, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Unfortunately word of Holford has spread across South Africa’s northern border to Botswana. My kid’s school are currently having a “Health Week” which of course is perfectly laudable. Well, except for my 8-year old lecturing me on drinking beer. However the school distributed a copy of an article on Holford taken from the SA Sunday Times when he goes on about every kid needing to take fish oil and vitamin pills before going to school and they mention the Durham fiasco as well regarding fish oil in schools.
    I’ve written and explained a few home truths about Holford and will continue to do so if I see more!

  26. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    ah yes, another testament to Holford’s ability to fairly and accurately summarise the published research data on an important topic. here it is in all its glory. it’s like an avalanche with this guy. oh and his commentary from today on antioxidants is particularly hilarious. i’ll post it if i get the chance.

    www.sundaytimes.co.za/article.aspx?ID=388553

    Holford gives SA food for thought

    ROWAN PHILP:
    18 February 2007

    World-renowned nutritionist tells parents to ditch junk food in favour of ‘brain food’ for childrens’ lunch boxes

    It could raise your child’s IQ by seven points in six months, slash most children’s hyperactivity and concentration problems in a month and, if widely adopted, solve South Africa’s skills crisis, reverse the crime wave, cut many chronic illnesses in half — and even energise the economy.

    And all it will take is changing the contents of your child’s school lunch box.

    This is the stunning claim world- renowned nutritionist and best selling author Professor Patrick Holford will make on a seminar tour to South Africa.

    Armed with a “dramatic” series of new studies on nutrition and the brain, Holford, head of the UK’s Food for the Brain charity, said he would seek to “spark a revolution for South Africa’s school kids” .

    Holford’s lunch boxes have already begun to appear at a dozen private schools around Gauteng — after a local food education organisation took his research to parents and learners last month.

    Pupils at Crawford and St Stithians primary schools were given lunch box menu options from baby carrots, tuna and slow sugar-release, “low-GI [Glycaemic Index] bread” to apple quarters dunked in peanut butter.

    Holford hit the headlines in the UK last month for dramatically turning around the results of two schools by educating parents on healthy cooking, changing kids’ lunches, and adding two cheap pills to each lunch, daily.

    In the world’s first combined trial of diet, vitamins and “essential fats” on school kids, the eleventh worst-performing school in Britain found that even “yob behaviour” had been significantly cut in just two weeks.

    In an independent study, children given fish-oil supplements gained nine months of reading ability in three months, while others showed a nine point increase in IQ after taking a daily multivitamin.

    Holford said the most conservative tests had shown a 4.5% rise in child IQ, simply through multivitamin intake — and that the average improvement parents could expect was a whopping 7%.

    Holford also called for all lunch boxes to feature a protein — such as peanut butter or tuna — to control the release of sugars from fruits and even whole wheat breads into children’s bloodstreams. He emphasised that children’s learning ability improved dramatically simply by banning sugar-based cooldrinks.

    Leading South African nutritionists this week said it was doubtful that Holford’s approach could create a “quick fix” for South African kids. But Cape Town nutrition expert Maria Ascencao said Holford’s emphasis on multivitamins and essential fats was “as important a message as our parents could hear”.

    Hosted by private health company Bioharmony, Holford admitted that his school nutrition recipe had yet to receive any interest from the South African departments of health or education

    One of the studies Holford will present this week is new British prison research, which showed that inmates who took a multivitamin daily showed a “35% decrease in aggressive behaviour”.

    In a visit to Joburg’s Crawford College this week — and during a tour of Durban and Cape Town to follow — Holford will “guarantee” dramatic improvements to school performance, if parents:

    # Ban sugar-based drinks and snacks — and even dilute fruit drinks half-and-half with water;

    # Switch from cornflakes to oats, using fruit such as apples rather than sugar for sweetening;

    # Give children an essential fats pill (the Omega-3 variety) and a multivitamin before they leave for school;

    # Ditch all junk food and white flour in school lunches;

    # Ensure at last one source of protein is included in lunch; and

    # Try to serve oily fish meals — salmon, mackerel or herring — to children every week.

    Holford said: “The single most important thing any parent can do for their child is to give them the right food for their brain.”

  27. apothecary said,

    February 28, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    re ceec at 23. Well, we know for certain (within the limits of the scientific method blah, blah) that at least one combination of vitamins doesn’t benefit one’s health. The Heart Protection Study (of 20,536 pts with coronary disease, other arterial occlusive disease or diabetes) is quite well known as demonstrating the benefits simvastatin vs placebo in reducing substantially the risk of cardiovascular events. But it’s often forgotton that HPS had a 2×2 factorial design, and the other comparison was a combination of antioxidant vitamins: (vit E 600 mg, vit C 250 mg and betacarotene 20 mg daily) or placebo. Although the combination boosted blood vitamin levels, after 5 years follow up it had no effect on mortality from or incidence of any type of vascular disease, cancer or any other major outcome (Lancet 2002; 360: 23-33). So that puts the tin lid on that, to my mind. Of course it may that other vitamin combinations or doses etc make a difference, but unless anyone can point to any studies of similar size and methodological quality, with real patient oriented outcomes, I remain unconvinced.

  28. lexmith said,

    February 28, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    From Ben’s post:
    “This is the stunning claim world- renowned nutritionist and best selling author Professor Patrick Holford will make on a seminar tour to South Africa.”

    Professor, now?

    Where exactly, the Holford University of Optimum Nutrition, by any chance?

    Not self-appointed, naturally; he was given this chair by his cronies.

  29. ceec said,

    February 28, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Apothecary –

    interesting that I’ve read so many claims that vit C is not trialled because it does not fit the interests of Big Pharma (which, incidentally, can’t be Holford because although he sells pills, he is not very big and uses words like “optimum” which must be good, right?).

    Don’t know the literature myself, but note with interest that the Lancet study you cite rather seems to contradict this “no studies on vit C” position. Maybe they just mean that the lack of POSITIVE studies is somehow caused by Big Pharma…

  30. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 28, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    there have been innumerable trials of vitamins in hundreds of thousands of patients, when holford doesn;t like the results he ignores them, or criticises them on ludicrous spurious grounds.

  31. ceec said,

    February 28, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Ah – that explains it. Although it is a rather strange myth to peddle. I’m ashamed to say that I had thought it had some grounding in fact.

  32. jackpt said,

    February 28, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    There’s a phrase that has become oft used on the net. FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. At the least this is the outcome of what’s going on here. Why the rest of the media barely sees a problem with this is difficult to understand.

    Here’s the Wikipedia definition of FUD.

  33. pv said,

    February 28, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I’ll bet that Jamie Oliver is kicking himself he didn’t have the foresight to establish his own university of nutrition, and get his mates to award him an honorary degree. Or maybe the bloke’s got a hell of a lot more integrity that the jumped up Holford squit who nicks ideas and presents them as his own, suitably puffed out and dressed up. All the quacks are jumping on some rather sensible observations made in his “school dinners” programme and milking it for all its worth.
    I notice Holford’s managed to include an Omega 3 PILL in there. I wonder how much Equazen or whoever pay him for that! It’s cynical and unscrupulous beyond belief that his whole raison d’être depends on taking advantage of the vulnerable and defenceless.

  34. Michael Harman said,

    February 28, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Holford’s lunch box. I like it – all cock and balls.

  35. dissonance said,

    February 28, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    for these IQ tests I am curious to the supporting methodology considering that IQ tests have the weakness (among others) that you do get improvements through practice, like many tests once you get used to the format. So if you were applying it to someone who was facing it for the first time and then redid it after your vitamins you would almost certainly see an improvement.

    I do love his “x is better than y” is not the same as saying “y is better than x”, i cant say it encourages me to take up his diet approach.

    the press release (#26) seems a bit misleading too, since it doesnt mention “Cape Town nutrition expert Maria Ascencao” just happens to be CEO of Bioharmony (even though they mention it in the next line), which just happens to flog these vitamins and other pills and lists Holford as a member of their team.
    On their about us page it is a bit light on explaining her qualifications although another of their listed staff has nutritionist qualification from Clayton USA.

  36. pv said,

    February 28, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    This is too good to resist. Mr Holford’s bio fluff from the “Bioharmony” web site.
    Other bios reveal all his colleagues there, with the requisite woo qualifications, to be a bunch of quacks.
    www.bioharmony.co.za/about_us.php

    Read and cry!!

    “Bioharmony has an association with one of the world’s leading nutritionists Patrick Holford who has produced a unique and superior range of supplements – The Patrick Holford Range.This range comprises formulations based on Patrick’s research at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition aimed at ensuring Optimum Daily Allowances. In addition, Bioharmony presents Patrick at annual seminars and workshops in South Africa. He also undertakes research for Bioharmony and writes regular articles for us.

    Patrick Holford BSc, Dip ION, FBant is a leading light in new approaches to health and nutrition. He is widely regarded as Britain’s best-selling author and leading spokesman on nutrition, food, environmental and health issues, hence being frequently quoted almost weekly in national newspapers from the Daily Mail to the Guardian. Patrick is also popular on radio shows and national television as a presenter, interviewer and guest.

    He started his academic career in the field of psychology. While completing his bachelor degree in Experimental Psychology at the University of York he researched the role of nutrition in mental health and illness and later tested the effects of improved nutrition on children’s IQ – an experiment that was the subject of Horizon documentary and published in the Lancet in 1988.

    In 1984 Patrick founded the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION), a charitable and independent educational trust for the furtherance of education and research in nutrition, now the largest training school in the UK offering a degree-accredited training in nutritional therapy and widely respected as a leading edge organisation by professionals and media alike. Patrick was awarded an honorary Diploma from ION and is also an Honorary Fellow of BANT. (The British Association of Nutritional Therapists). In 2003 he founded the Brain Bio Centre at ION, a treatment centre pioneering the optimum nutrition approach for mental health.

    Patrick is frequently involved in government campaigns and debates and has been invited to the House of Commons, House of Lords and the Food Standards Agency as an expert in optimum nutrition. In October 2004 he authored Britain’s largest ever health and diet survey (ONUK) comparing the health and diet of 37,000 people.

    His knowledge, personality and enthusiasm, together with his strong scientific approach helps him to stimulate lively debates, simplifying complex issues and helping viewers to expand their understanding of health issues.

    Patrick lectures and conducts workshops throughout the world on a wide range of topics, to the public and health professionals and the medical profession. In the UK he presents around 50 workshops and lectures a year.”

  37. roodle said,

    March 1, 2007 at 4:32 am

    You said he’d taken a letter off his website, you know you can use the wayback machine at www.archive.org to see older versions of sites.

    web.arc hive.org/web/*/www.patr ickholford.co m/

    There’s nothing from 2007 on there sadly, but it might be useful if he tries to rewrite history again. On Feb 6th 2006 for instance, he was saying he could tell us how to “Find out about research on the anti-cancer power of Vitamin D”. Not C. Later on he mentions this research being from April 2006, so I’m guessing he was psychic or something for mentioning it in February. And on March 19th 2003 he desperately needed a web designer who wasn’t colourblind.

  38. apothecary said,

    March 1, 2007 at 9:00 am

    I’m hoping Ceec is still there at 29 (your earlier post seems to have disappeared) –

    interesting that I’ve read so many claims that vit C is not trialled because it does not fit the interests of Big Pharma

    The HPS was not sponsored by Big Pharma, it was actually an MRC/BHF venture (hurragh!). But tempting though it is, I’m going to leave in its stable my hobby horse about Big Pharma doing trials to satisfy licensing authorities and to sell its drugs, rather than to answer questions we really need to know – eg AD2000 study, an NHS study looking at the effects of anti-dementia drugs on real outcomes like time to institutionalisation, instead of small changes on ADAS-cog scores of doubtful clinical significance, was opposed by the industry and has been rubbished by it, including persuading old-age psychiatrists that it’s rubbish. Could that have anything to do with the fact that AD2000 showed that, overall, the effects of these drugs is tiny? (Accepting that for some patients they are beneficial, means that for some pts they are actually harmful, since the mean result is negligible benefit). And also for eg, a lot of the space-themed AZ stuff on rosuva (ASTEROID to name but one) Which tales us back to the Lancet editorial on rosuva…

    Damn, the horse bolted!

  39. ceec said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Don’t worry, apothecary, I’m not an advocate of big pharma methods, I was being semi-sarcastic. Obviously good conspiracy theories need to be plausible on some level. In this case, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of capitalism can see that pharma companies are unlikely to shell out large sums to pay for trials of cheap medication.

    The problem part is the leap from that into “and therefore there are no studies on vitamins” (as though pharma were the only source of funding for science). Even worse is the leap from that to “and because pharma won’t fund it, it must mean that vit C is a panacea! It cures cancer! It stops HIV in its tracks! Otherwise they’d have nothing to fear!” Someone like Holford probably doesn’t state things so baldly, but his acolytes do, so he doesn’t need to.

  40. Delster said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:56 am

    # Ban sugar-based drinks and snacks — and even dilute fruit drinks half-and-half with water;

    This is fairly good advise… look at american school childrens calorie intake from this stuff

    # Switch from cornflakes to oats, using fruit such as apples rather than sugar for sweetening;

    I can also see the point of the apple bit…. removing processed sugars etc

    # Give children an essential fats pill (the Omega-3 variety) and a multivitamin before they leave for school;

    Why would they need to omega-3 pill if they get the oily fish he recommends? same applies to the vit pill with the fresh fruit and veg he’s pushing.

    # Ditch all junk food and white flour in school lunches;

    certainly the junk food is a good idea… reduce the amount of fat, salt and additives in the diet

    # Ensure at last one source of protein is included in lunch; and

    good advise as well

    # Try to serve oily fish meals — salmon, mackerel or herring — to children every week.

    and here’s a good natural source of the snake… i mean fish oil.

    Trouble is he’ll get people to adopt the advise, including the pills, and claim it’s due to the pills rather than just improving the diet.

    Also…

    “Holford hit the headlines in the UK last month for dramatically turning around the results of two schools by educating parents on healthy cooking, changing kids’ lunches, and adding two cheap pills to each lunch, daily.”

    Is this the same trials that also included additional physical exercise and took place at the same time as other initiatives such as reading clubs etc? because those could not possibly have been a factor….

  41. stever said,

    March 1, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    its quite common phenomenon amongst people who work in the health fringe but arent actually qualified doctors- where they feel they have to do these irrational blanket condemnation of conventional medicine and evil pharmaceuticals. It helps them justify themsleves, assuage proffessional jealousy, and in Holfords case obviously – sell lots of uneccassary supplements to people who know even less than him

  42. evidencebasedeating said,

    March 1, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    #40 simongates

    Bang on! It was basically a survey of (supposedly) 37,000 people – basically bored London commuters who accessed the ‘free survey’ touted in the freebie newspaper ‘Metro’. Like everything Patrick does, it generated loads of ‘meeja statements’ about how much we public ‘suffer’ from the softy softy symptoms of Patricks People’s version of ill health: tiredness? bloated? furry tongue? a spot? the odd muscle ache?
    My, you ARE unwell – but fortunately a supplement and an ION ‘nutritionist’ visit could help YOU!!! Click HERE for 10% DISCOUNT!!!

    I must admit to being one of the surveyed. I was totally healthy, had none of the worrying ‘PP conditions’, slept well, basically enjoyed life, and submitted as perfect a healthy diet as any dietitian could recommend (bearing in mind the rather pathetic apeing of a proper ‘dietary analysis’ questionnaire online made one want to LOL about the ‘quality’ of the questions and what inference you could gain from that!)

    And guess what!!! Patrick agreed i had a healthy diet – BUT would STILL benefit from his recommendation – of – you’ve guessed it – a 1g of Vitamin C a day!!! for OPTIMUM health!

    How fortunate to be able to Click HERE to be connected directly to the vitamin shop recommended by Patrick for my ‘necessary’ supplement.

    But don’t take my word for it!

    www.dietetics.co.uk/docs/onuk.pdf

    enjoy

  43. ceec said,

    March 1, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Anyone got any answers to this one? In Holford’s profile he strongly implies he has been published in the Lancet.

    www.pa trickho lford.co m/conten t.asp?id_C ontent=1279

    “In 1986 he started researching the effects of nutrition on intelligence, collaborating with Gwillym Roberts, a headmaster and student at ION. This culminated in a randomised controlled trial testing the effects of improved nutrition on children’s IQ – an experiment that was the subject of Horizon documentary and published in the Lancet in 1988.”

    I don’t seem to be able to find his paper. Can anyone help? I have found two possible candidates for this 1988 Lancet reference on PubMed, but need hard copies to check them because they’re not archived on line. Neither Holford nor Roberts are listed as authors.

    Lancet. 1988 Sep 24;2(8613):744-5.
    Vitamins, minerals, and IQ.[No authors listed]

    Lancet. 1988 Aug 6;2(8606):335.
    Can children’s intelligence be increased by vitamin and mineral supplements?Naismith DJ, Nelson M, Burley VJ, Gatenby SJ.

    I wonder whether he just means that a study was published in the Lancet on that topic. It seems odd that he wouldn’t be listed as an author if it was his study. On that basis, I’m glad to report that I have conducted hundreds of pieces of work which have culminated in RCTs which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Is this unfair? Has he actually ever been published in the Lancet?

  44. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 1, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    simongates @ 40 — someone gave them a .ac.uk domain for their institute?!?

    My faith in the sanity of humankind has just taken a big hit. I thought those things were fairly well-regulated.

    Andrew.

  45. simongates said,

    March 1, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    #45 yes, I was a bit surprised by this as well

    #44 the study was indeed published in The Lancet:
    EFFECT OF VITAMIN AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENTATION ON INTELLIGENCE OF A SAMPLE OF SCHOOLCHILDREN
    David Benton and Gwilym Roberts, Lancet 1988; 331 (8578): 140-143

    Seems to be an RCT of 60 children. I couldn’t access the pdf so haven’t looked at the methodology. One of the refs above (#44) was a letter criticising this study.

  46. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 1, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    ah yes, i have some good stuff on that ion.ac.uk domain to come.

    can i advise you to screengrab/print/etc any amusing claims from holford’s pages as he tends to read what people say and change them in response.

    (although notably not his false claim that i was too cowardly to debate him. for that he just ignores all emails for six weeks. sigh.)

  47. simongates said,

    March 1, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    From the ion.ac.uk page about Optimum Nutrition magazine:

    “Next Issue – 30 February 2007″

    So I guess we’ll be waiting a long long time for that one. Shame, it looks interesting.

  48. evidencebasedeating said,

    March 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    fairly representative of the accuracy of the ION genre…..

  49. ACH said,

    March 1, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    ceec @ 44,

    A pubmed search on (Holford[Auth]) AND (“Lancet”[Jour]) yields “no details found” so I think the naswer is a definite “no”.

  50. ceec said,

    March 1, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks ACH but NB Simongates found what must be the correct ref (#46 – Benton and Roberts).

    Given that Holford is not an author, I suppose he might be mentioned in the acknowledgments if it had anything to do with him…

  51. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 1, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    can i be bothered to write about this joker again this week? i’ve got plenty of other stuff, but the south africa storm combined with his farcical “rebuttals” of other news stories does make for fairly amusing copy. upside: zero tolerance policy for ludicrous claims, esp on AIDS, and more and more of his bizarre claims are coming to light. downside: bit repetitive. i have to say, i thought of him as a bit of a sideshow at first, but the way he’s escalated this from one tiny foolish sentence in one of his books to this monster with his wikipedia antics, demanding letters in the guardian promoting and reasserting his foolish HIV/vitamins claims, etc has produced a huge amount of material and interest.

  52. manigen said,

    March 1, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Clearly the only answer is for the Guardian to give you more space so you can do two subjects.

  53. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 1, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    isnt there a danger of it being a bit too much nutritionist action? i think youre right that they are the primary exponents of bad science in popular fora at the moment, as the most popular new age therapy, and the one that is most cloaked in the authority of science, but i have got quite a good story on GM quackery.

  54. gruff said,

    March 2, 2007 at 2:27 am

    ceec @ 51

    Looked up the Lancet article in question (bored at work). According to my search of the pdf, there are 0 instances of the word ‘holford’. So any contribution he made went unacknowledged (I know that feeling…)

  55. gruff said,

    March 2, 2007 at 2:38 am

    Oh, and I would have to agree that Bad Science, fantastic read though it is, is becoming something of a nutritionist (Mc)witchhunt. A few morsels for us physical scientists wouldn’t go amiss once in a while. Climate change denial has most of the requisite characteristics, I would think (imbalances between the media profile and scientific credibility of those taking part, shady corporate backers, deliberate obsfuscation of important facts, a public that is confused, or in some cases, made hostile – in the US, at least – to what is a broad scientific consensus, etc.)

  56. Teek said,

    March 2, 2007 at 8:54 am

    “Patrick Holford BSc, Dip ION, FBant is a leading light in new approaches to health and nutrition. He is widely regarded as Britain’s best-selling author and leading spokesman on nutrition, food, environmental and health issues, hence being frequently quoted almost weekly in national newspapers from the Daily Mail to the Guardian.”

    quoted in the Grauniad…?! yes he is, quoted as being a misguided fraudster who peddles vit C as a cure for HIV/AIDS when he has the scantest of supporting ‘evidence’. that’s like saying george bush is quoted daily in the Iraq Times – as the devil incarnate no doubt – but he is quoted nontheless…!

    re # 26:

    It could raise your child’s IQ by seven points in six months, slash most children’s hyperactivity and concentration problems in a month and, if widely adopted, solve South Africa’s skills crisis, reverse the crime wave, cut many chronic illnesses in half — and even energise the economy.

    [Eh…?! Really…?!]

    And all it will take is changing the contents of your child’s school lunch box.

    This is the stunning claim world- renowned nutritionist and best selling author Professor Patrick Holford will make on a seminar tour to South Africa.

    Armed with a “dramatic” series of new studies on nutrition and the brain, Holford, head of the UK’s Food for the Brain charity, said he would seek to “spark a revolution for South Africa’s school kids” .

    Pupils at Crawford and St Stithians primary schools were given lunch box menu options from baby carrots, tuna and slow sugar-release, “low-GI [Glycaemic Index] bread” to apple quarters dunked in peanut butter.

    [newsflash – good food is good for you. Stunning claim…]

    Holford hit the headlines in the UK last month for dramatically turning around the results of two schools by educating parents on healthy cooking, changing kids’ lunches, and adding two cheap pills to each lunch, daily.

    [nooo…. Don’t go there…]

    In the world’s first combined trial of diet, vitamins and “essential fats” on school kids, the eleventh worst-performing school in Britain found that even “yob behaviour” had been significantly cut in just two weeks.

    [trial…? Feck off… significant…? Show me the Data Jerry McVitamin…]

    In an independent study, children given fish-oil supplements gained nine months of reading ability in three months, while others showed a nine point increase in IQ after taking a daily multivitamin.

    [again, data…? Oh right, goto equazen.com/secret_corporate_results_not_peer_reviewd/htm]

  57. apothecary said,

    March 2, 2007 at 9:07 am

    I’m with gruff @57 – IMVHO its best to let cr*ppy “nutritionists” alone for a bit and go for something else, otherwise you risk looking like a monomaniac with a personal grudge

  58. wewillfixit said,

    March 2, 2007 at 9:11 am

    I would err towards spacing out the nutritionist stuff. When there is so much bad science in the media, if you focus on one aspect a lot of the time it starts to look personal. So I would give Holford a rest for a couple of weeks – also gives him a chance to talk more nonsense in the meantime for us to laugh at and you to include next time.

  59. manigen said,

    March 2, 2007 at 9:49 am

    If you can’t get the double page spread, then I’m going to have to go with the general consensus and agree you should switch topics, at least for a week. After all, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of others scrutinizing Holford at the moment.

  60. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 2, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Re #57 – Climate change denial may be a good one to go for. But I can understand why Ben might be a bit wary here. Thing is that at the moment there are a lot of media voices who are pro-action on climate change, albeit grudgingly in some cases. So the public are probably better informed on this than they are on nutrition where a lot of misinformation has become enshrined as popular ‘knowledge’. Also climatology probably isn’t Ben’s field so he has to tread more carefully.

    However, if he is so inclined, a good target will present itself next week on Thursday, on Channel 4 – Martin Durkin’s documentary ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’. Where, I daresay, arguments against anthopogenic global warming that were discredited several years ago will be trundled out and presented as important new evidence that public attention must be drawn to.

    This is the same Martin Durkin who made a documentary in 1999 about silicone implants being preventative factors against breast cancer. And who made a documentary series in 1997 attacking environmentalists which Channel 4 later had to issue an apology over because of extensive use of selective editing to misrepresent the views of those interviewed.

    Well, if nothing else this documentary will afford us an excellent chance to play ‘Global Warming Skeptic Bingo!’

    timlambert.org/2005/04/16

  61. FlammableFlower said,

    March 2, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Sorry to go back to Holford et al. but… what is it about these people, that they can’t raise their eyes above the – “if X is good for you (or more correctly, a lack of X is bad for you) then taking huge quantities of X must be really, really good” hypothesis?

    Take selenium – we need it, although deficiency in it is fairly rare, the US recommended intake is 55 ug a day, but it’s toxic at over 400 ug. So why are most selenium supplements at 100 to 200 ug levels? Pop too many, or combine with a diet high in selenium anyway (by eating a perfectly normal healthy diet) and you can cross the line or at least get not pleasantly close. Just spotted, one ounce of GMcK’s favourite Brazil Nuts takes you well over the limit at 544 ug/ounce (apologies for mixing units). To quote the NIH: Symptoms of selenosis include gastrointestinal upsets, hair loss, white blotchy nails, garlic breath odor, fatigue, irritability, and mild nerve damage. Selenium toxicity is rare in the U.S. The few reported cases have been associated with industrial accidents and a manufacturing error that led to an excessively high dose of selenium in a supplement.

    Likewise with chromium, yes we need it, but in stupendously, vanishingly small amounts, ‘cos it is very very toxic at not very high levels…

  62. pseudomonas said,

    March 3, 2007 at 12:32 am

    I agree on giving nutritionists a rest for a bit. If I can have a vote on the matter, I’d really like to see some more of you taking apart bad stats. Your stuff on the Prosecutor’s Fallacy was great, and the article about detecting publication bias – there’s surely lots more out there.

    By the way, your cat got a passing mention on yesterday’s (Friday’s) You & Yours.

  63. carl sanderson said,

    March 13, 2007 at 10:43 am

    “Lurkinggherkin said,

    February 28, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I wonder what Patrick Holford will have to say about this study:

    uk.news.yahoo.com/28022007/397/vitamins-increase-risk-death-0.html

    Have you seen this study yet, Ben? Just wondered what your take on it was.”

    I tell you what, some people are idiots. That report says vitamin C does not increase longevity, that has no bearing on whether or not it helps HIV patients. Antibiotics regularly taken to not increase longevity you imbocile but taken at the right time with the right dosage they kill bacterium. Point made, this man was a lapdog for Ben Goldacre.

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