HolfordMyths – A forum for responding to Holford Myths, accusations and attempts to discredit

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Mahatma Gandhi

In my ongoing exploration of the role of nutrition as medicine I have frequently challenged today’s drug-based medical paradigm and exposed the distortions of corporate science, motivated by money rather than public interest, and consequently have been relentlessly under attack. Notably since my book, co-authored with medical journalist Jerome Burne, Food Is Better Medicine Than Drugs, certain drug industry funded organisations and drug-oriented individuals have campaigned to discredit my reputation by spreading false allegations. The main opponents at that time were Ben Goldacre in the Guardian, pharmacology professor David Colquhoun, the anonymous ‘holfordwatch’ and ‘holfordmyths’ and certain dieticians. Goldacre is to be applauded for, more recently, exposing the ‘bad science’ inherent in the pharmaceutical industry in his book Bad Pharma. At least we agree on something!

These days most accusations against me are made in relation to material published 10 or more years ago, and anonymously. Any attempts to responds in blogs has proven futile since my comments in the past have been creatively edited or simply not posted. Similarly, media appearances are never shown in full, but show sections of interviews out of context, usually the infuriated rebuttal of a narrow-minded medic, to further create the intended illusion. Also, by maintaining anonymity, there is no way of knowing whether the accusers are politically or financially motivated through interests with the industries that gain through the continued suppression of the truth about the power of nutrition as medicine. Alternatively, they may just be nutritionally ignorant people (medical training still excludes nutritional medicine) or atheist materialists who have somehow decided all ‘complementary medicine’ is non-scientific quackery. If so, I recommend reading Science Delusion or watching his TED talk. I believe in science and being skeptical. But I do not believe that the only way to do science is with double-blind placebo controlled trials and therefore do not base my theories only on these. Nor do I beleive in the illusion of ‘objectivity’ of scientists. Much of what is published in journals is paid for, and influenced by big business.

Martin Walker, in his 2011 book Dirty Medicine, the Handbook, published by slingshot publications, lays bear the main characters, and their commercial and political interests with big pharma (and big farmer). He has also documented the plethora of attacks commenting ““The most unfounded, unbalanced, libellous, cowardly and untruthful things are said about him (Patrick Holford) in the full knowledge that for him to mount legal action, by which he could defend his professional identity, would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.” The associations with the pharmaceutical industry and/or organisations funded by the pharmaceutical industry are also explored in the free e-book Cultural Dwarfs and Junk Journalism: Ben Goldacre, Quackbusters and Corporate Science by Martin Walker for those who want to understand the modus operandi of the organised lobby against alternative and nutritional approaches within medicine. We have created this forum holfordmyths to correct holford myths –  false or misleading allegations – for the public record. If you have any further topics you’d like me to address please email me at patrick@patrickholford.com.

Myth: Patrick Holford has no qualifications in nutrition
He has a BSc in Experimental Psychology, an Honorary Diploma in Nutrition (DipION), is a Fellow of the British Association of Nutritional Therapy, Patron of the South African Association of Nutritional Therapy and a registered Practitioner with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. He was previously Visiting Professor at the School of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Teesside, an appointment that can only be made to those with PHD status or equivalent on the basis of peer review, and director of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition where he trained thousands of nutritional therapists, now retired. He is CEO of the charitable Food for the Brain Foundation, and director of its clinic, the Brain Bio Centre. He has over thirty years experience researching, teaching, writing and practising nutrition. His teaching includes post graduate medical and nutrition courses and health professional conferences. He has authored 40 books, now available in close to 30 languages. He is justly considered to be one of the most well qualified experts to comment on issues of health and nutrition, especially in relation to mental health, which is his speciality.

Myth: Patrick awarded his own qualification in nutrition
Patrick was awarded his Diploma in Nutrition in 1998 by the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION), which is a registered educational charity, in recognition of his contribution to creating the first training in nutritional therapy.  ION’s course is considered the toughest academic standard.  Patrick ran ION from 1984 to 1998 and was never a Trustee of the Board. So he did not award his own Diploma in Nutrition. In any event he does not make use of this qualification in the public domain and, if asked, refers to himself rightfully, as the founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition.

Myth: Anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist
The term ‘nutritional therapist’ is regulated by the voluntary professional organisation the British Association of Nutritional Therapy (BANT). Please click here to understand the differences between a nutritional therapist, a dietician and a nutritionist. The Complementary and Natural healthcare Council is the independent, state recognised regulatory body for Nutritional Therapy representing Nutritional Therapy practitioners, in a regulatory role to protect patients and promote standards. BANT is a member of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council of which Patrick is also a registered practitioner.

Myth: Only dieticians and doctors are qualified to give diet advice
The DipION foundation degree is a three year course which provides considerably more qualification to advise an individual about their nutritional needs than either a medical training or a dietetic training. The profession of nutritional therapist came into existence to address the shortfalls of a conventional dietetic approach. Dieticians are regulated by the British Dietetic Association and nutritional therapists are regulated by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. Dieticians and nutritional therapists are both trained in clinical practice to give one-on-one personal advice. Some dieticians attempt to discredit Patrick Holford and presumably see the profession of nutritional therapists as rivalrous. Patrick’s view is that dieticians, nutritionists and nutritional therapists should work together to improve the nation’s health, but that certain tenets of conventional dietetics are in need of revision.

Myth: Patrick Holford is a doctor or professor
Patrick has never claimed to be a doctor.  Some newspapers have mistakenly referred to him as a doctor but this is not a claim he has ever made. His expertise is in nutritional therapy and mental health (see above). He was Visiting Professor at the University of Teesside, in the School of Social Sciences and Law from 2007 and 2008 to assist in setting up research into nutrition and mental illness, and to establish post-graduate training in nutrition and mental health, which had to be abandoned due to political pressure to keep nutritional medicine out of mainstream education.

Myth: Patrick Holford owns a vitamin company and/or is a vitamin salesman
Patrick Holford neither owns, nor has shares in any vitamin company. He has formulated a number of supplements, which clearly carry his name on the product label, and has written books, clearly authored, for which he receives royalties.

Patrick has been at the forefront of progressive scientific enquiry into the optimal intake of nutrients for optimal health and maximum reduction in disease risk. Where the optimal level is greater than that easily achieved through a healthy diet he recommends supplementation. There are many clear examples where there is a large disparity between what is considered optimum, the basic RDA, and what even a ‘well balanced’ diet provides. click here for more information on the Optimum Daily Amounts, and the optimal amounts to supplement.

On the basis of studying this science of nutrition for the past thirty years Patrick follows a healthy diet as possible as well as taking five different supplements, twice a day with breakfast and lunch, and recommends other people to do so too. He hasn’t seen a doctor in years, doesn’t get colds and has tons of energy and is ‘youthful and trim’ and ahead of the curve, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Myth: Patrick believes that vitamin C cures AIDS
Patrick has never said this. What he believes about AIDS and vitamin C is explained at the link www.patrickholford.com/hiv. However, this myth continues to circulate. You can see exchanges here in the Guardian between Patrick and Ben Goldacre.

Myth: Patrick recommends eating oily fish three times a day!
Patrick does not eat oily fish three times a DAY as incorrectly reported in a recent newspaper article!  He eats oily fish three times a WEEK and in addition has a tablespoon of ground seeds such as flax and pumpkin seeds. He also takes both omega 3 and omega 6 supplements every day. He would always encourage people to try to consume enough omega 3 and omega 6 through their diet but recognises that this can be difficult and so recommends supplementing omega 3 and omega 6. 
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that people who have had a heart attack eat 2 – 4 portions of oily fish a week. HOWEVER, they also recognise that not all patients achieve this and so recommend providing at least one gram a day of fish oil for anyone who has had a heart attack click here for further details of the NICE guidelines.

True: Patrick opposes fortification of food with folic acid
This is true. Despite the likely benefits of decreased number of babies born with neural tube defects, and reduced incidence of stroke and possibly heart disease. Food fortification in the US and Canada has been associated with increased incidence of col-rectal cancer and memory decline in B12 deficient elderly. Click here for the full story.

True: Patrick Holford has concerns about the MMR vaccine
The official line is that there’s no good evidence of a danger of the MMR vaccine causing autism in children. There’s some truth to this, in that Dr Andrew Wakefield’s research at the Royal Free Hospital [1], while important, was the first hint of a problem and it may be too early to jump to conclusions. Of course, the last thing the medical profession want is a whole lot of children not being vaccinated, since that increases the risk of epidemics. Here’s what Wakefield actually said: ‘Although MMR cannot by any means be described as a cause of autism, a child genetically predisposed to asthma, eczema, food allergy or intolerance, perhaps with possible disruption of the gut flora or with a fungal overgrowth, deficient in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, may be at risk from MMR. For them MMR could be described as the straw that broke the camel’s back, tipping the balance of normal childhood development into a retrogressive state.’ [2] However, despite many attempts to discredit Wakefield, a recent review of all the available evidence on autism and vaccination concludes ‘there has not been a single credible study that can robustly refute the claims of the parents that their children’s acquired autism has been caused by MMR or related measles-containing vaccines, or thimerosal-containing vaccines.’[3] A recent survey found that in 55 out of 824 children with autism, the parents reported clear signs of regression associated with the MMR vaccine. If correct, this means that 6.7 per cent of autistic children, or 1 in 15, are attributed to the MMR vaccine, according to parents.[4]

But what is the evidence against MMR? Studies have shown a high incidence of autism in children whose mothers had received live virus vaccines (particularly the MMR or rubella vaccine) immediately prior to conception, during pregnancy, or immediately following birth.[5] Autism onset at 18 months was uncommon until the mid-1980s, when the MMR vaccine came into wide use. After that the incidence shot up.[6]  There is now evidence that measles antibodies can lie in the central nervous system, potentially damaging brain and gut. In fact, many autistic children are found to have measles antibodies in the gut. It’s a bit like having a chronic infection. One possibility is that this triple vaccine may make a chronic underlying measles infection persist.

The latest 2012 Cochrane systematic review of all published trials concludes “The design and reporting of safety outcomes in MMR vaccine studies, both pre- and post-marketing, are largely inadequate.”[7] This review reports “A significant risk of association with febrile seizures and MMR exposure.” Patrick explores the safety issues of having, and not having MMR in his blog Measles and MMR – the risks.


1. A.J. Wakefield et al., ‘Ileal-lymphoid hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and persvasive developmental disorder in children’, Lancet, Vol 351, 1998, pp.637-41

2. Andrew Wakefield, speaking at the Allergy Research Foundation conference, November 1999

3. D. Thrower, ‘Autism and MMR – Summary of Published Research’, available from www.foodforthebrain.org under ‘ reports’

4. P. Shattock, presentation, Food for The Brain Conference, 1 October 2006

5.F.E. Yazbak, ‘Autism – is there a vaccine connection?’.

6. B. Rimland, J Nut Env Med, Vol 10, 2000, pp267-9

7. V. Demicheli et al., ‘Vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella in children’ Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Feb 15 (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22336803

True: Patrick Holford considers food intolerance/allergy to be a critical health factor and IgG Food Intolerance/allergy tests to be a useful indicator of potential food intolerance/allergy
The Royal College of Physicians estimates that one in three people have allergies, whether to foods eaten, substances inhaled or in contact with the skin. An allergy means an immunological response whereby your body produces antibodies that attack the substance in question. Two types of antibodies, called IgE and IgG, are thought to be the main contenders for most allergic reactions. Both can be reliably tested using a technique known as ELISA. In Patrick Holford’s book Hidden Food Allergies, co-authored with medical allergy expert Dr James Braly, they explore this subject in detail and refer to over 100 hundred relevant pieces of allergy research on this sometimes complex subject. Since the book a study conducted by researchers at the University of York, interviewed over 5,000 people who’d had an IgG allergy test from Yorktest laboratories and found consistent evidence that noticeable benefit was gained from removing offending foods from the diet. [Hardman G, Journal of Nutrition and Food Science 37 No 1 2007 pp 16-23]. While the conventional view is that IgE antibodies are responsible for most immediate onset allergies, there is growing evidence that IgG antiobidy mediated reactions, may indeed be responsible for more ‘hidden’ allergies. In the University of York survey, an impressive 75.8% of people who rigorously followed their allergy-free diet, as determined by a pin-prick blood test, had a noticeable improvement in their condition, with 68.2% of them feeling better within three weeks. What’s more, the more strictly they followed their allergy-free diet, the better their results. For example, 59% of people who avoided all identified allergens reported high or considerable relief of symptoms, compared to 36% of those who didn’t avoid their allergens as strictly. And for those that followed their allergen-elimination diet rigorously and reported high benefit, 92.3% felt a return of symptoms on reintroduction of the offending foods.

Myth: Patrick Holford is associated with Scientologists
Over a decade ago Patrick was given an award from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (the charity that succeeded in obtaining a ban on ECT for children among other worthy achievements) for his work in mental health and nutrition. The CCHR is part-funded by the Church of Scientology. He also sits on the Advisory Board of Safe Harbor, an employee of which is into Scientology. However Patrick, personally, is not, nor has ever been. He has neither read a book, nor attended any courses on Scientology. Most reasonable people would not describe this as ‘associated with Scientology’.

True: Two ASA rulings were upheld against 100% Health
Two complaints were made about a direct mailing to subscribers for 100% Health www.patrickholford.com for books published by Patrick Holford. Here we clarify the complaints and why they were upheld.
The first complaint related to the following text: The headline “You don’t swallow junk food. Why swallow junk health advice?”  Text within the letter from Patrick Holford said, “I would like you and your family to stay healthy, free of pain and the need for drugs. But if told you the truth in this letter, I would break the law. . . I’d love to tell you how powerful nutrition is, both for your mind and body. But I can’t. Why? Because advertising law prohibits me saying anything that claims to ‘treat, prevent or cure’ any condition! Even if there’s undisputed proof that nutrient ‘x’ cures condition ‘y’ I’m not allowed to tell you here. By law, I can tell you in my newsletters, but I can’t in this publication…..So, excuse me if you have to read between the lines….”

The reason that Patrick couldn’t tell you how powerful nutrition is in the letter is because ASA and legal guidelines don’t allow him to so he was pointing out to readers that he is unable to share information in mailings about the therapeutic effects of nutrients, however well proven, although he can do so in his newsletters and books.
The ASA found that 100% Health was complying with the EU directive on food supplements and was also within the regulatory requirements of the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). They also recognised that the mailing acted only as an introduction to our subscription newsletter. The ASA only decided to uphold the complaint because there was a possibility the information was misleading and 100% Health agreed to ensure to fully comply in further mailings. So, the ASA ruled that you are not allowed to state that you’re not allowed to state a nutrient prevents, treats or cure a disease, even if it’s true! So much for freedom of speech!

The second complaint was about the wording “. . . Myth: ‘If you eat a balanced diet you get all the vitamins and minerals you need.’ WRONG”. It is the opinion of Patrick Holford (and incidentally many other nutritionists) that even a well balanced diet does not provide the vitamins and minerals needed each day for many individuals.  100% Health also pointed to a publication from the Department of Health entitled “Dietary Reference Values” which discussed whether the optimum level of nutrient consumption was above that which merely prevented deficiency. The DoH did not define what an optimum level might be and 100% Health and its publications explores such questions. The ASA also recognised that the reports 100% Health submitted to them in support of vitamin supplementation for some groups were promising but upheld the complaint because they considered it was not clear that the claim was representative only of Patrick Holford’s views. Holford cites the need for supplementary B12 in the elderly and the need for supplemental vitamin D during the winter on upper Northern hemisphere countries as examples.

To read the full ASA Adjudication click here.

Myth: Pharmaceutical companies are looking after your health

Click here.

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