Patrick Holford promotes supplement pills
That is what he does, and he recommends that you purchase them in little bottles with his face on them. Patrick Holford recently sold his latest food supplement pill company in a £464,000 deal. He now formulates pills for a vitamin pill company called BioCare. Supplement companies contribute to his projects. Patrick Holford writes books about why you need to take multiple supplements for something he has styled as optimum nutrition and optimum health.
Myth: Patrick Holford only recommends evidence-based supplements
Patrick Holford regularly appears on GMTV with bottles of his own formulations. Holford advises the use of his formulation Cinnachrome for “natural blood sugar management” and for diabetes. He claims that there is clear clinical evidence for his recommendations. Holford Watch offers a complete exploration of that ‘evidence’: Myth: The Scientific Support for Chromium and Cinnamon.
Patrick Holford makes dramatic and unsustainable claims about vitamin pills
Here is one clear claim from Patrick Holford:
AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C.
This claim has no credible evidence base. AZT is an unpleasant drug with side effects which is still used to save lives in Aids as part of HAART, and which dramatically reduces maternal transmission of HIV. Patrick Holford sometimes denies having claimed that vitamin C is proving more effective than AZT, bizarrely, and at length, but the quote is absolutely accurate, entirely in context and foolish.
Patrick Holford endorses the absurd Q-Link pendant
Q-Link is a pendant that is sold to “protect” worried customers from electromagnetic waves. Patrick Holford can be found endorsing it all over the internet. He also sold the device for £69.99 through Health products for life, which offered the following description:
It [the Q-link] needs no batteries as it is ‘powered’ by the wearer – the microchip is activated by a copper induction coil which picks up sufficient micro currents from your heart to power the pendant.
Patrick Holford asserts that the scientific evidence for the efficacy of Qlink is “deeply impressive”. This may be thought to reflect the substance of many of his other less dramatic claims.
Patrick Holford takes a unique approach to endorsements
Professor John Marks was Director of Medical Studies at Girton College, Cambridge. Marks wrote a courteous letter to Patrick Holford in 1997 (pdf) saying he found Holford’s work interesting, and also describing some reservations. He gave Patrick Holford permission to use comments from this letter as long as they retained their “general sense”. Patrick Holford has used these comments as a ringing endorsement for his work and reproduced them extensively in publicity and marketing material: however, this includes endorsements for specific books which Professor Marks had never read, nor heard of, nor approved. Professor Marks and his endorsement even made it into Patrick Holford’s CV for his position as Visiting Professor at Teesside (pdf) that was submitted in 2007 (some 10 years after the remarks were made). You may judge for yourself whether his use of these comments alter the “general sense”.
Professor Marks reports that he has tried to stop this without success so far. Other academics (including Professor Andre Tylee) who have become entangled have moved to have their names disentangled from Patrick Holford’s elaborate and professional publicity machine.
Patrick Holford encourages you to believe you are sick in the right way for him
Patrick Holford claims that “One in two people suffers from a hidden food allergy”. He then reassures you that he can help you to get well from these ‘allergies’. He identifies numerous common symptoms and everyday health complaints as having specific dietary causes to which he has the solution, and promises elaborate treatments involving complex dietary regimes and expensive supplement pills. This is very similar to mass-medicalisation, the same strategy that the pharmaceutical industry uses.
Patrick Holford promotes “alternative” diagnostic tests that help you believe you are sick in the right way for him to help you.
He promotes IgG food sensitivity testing, which has even been criticised in a parliamentary enquiry into allergy and allergic diseases. He promotes the Livercheck Test. He promotes hair testing to diagnose mineral deficiencies. In the past he has even promoted health dowsing, saying:
although it is hard to believe, [dowsing] is an accurate and simple method of diagnosis that uses intuition rather than logical thinking to determine people’s nutritional needs.
What happens when Patrick Holford meets people who know about the real evidence on his pills?
This. And we recommend watching, because it’s pretty funny (partial transcript and discussion). We suspect Patrick tries to avoid audiences critical of his products and claims because of this kind of thing.
Patrick Holford has been found by the Advertising Standards Authority to make untruthful and unsubstantiated claims
Patrick has been found to make unsubstantiated and untruthful claims on two occasions: September 2007 and March 2003. He continues to make claims that look remarkably similar. If Patrick’s copywriting continues to flout advertising standards, it seems plausible that the ASA will continue to substantiate complaints against him and his companies.
Holford has no accredited degree-level qualifications in nutrition
According to Holford’s CV, his only accredited degree-level qualification is a BSc: he studied Psychology at York, earning a 2:2. Holford also studied for – but failed to complete – an MPhil at Surrey University. His DipION is an honorary diploma: it was awarded by the institution he founded while he was Director. Although Holford calls himself a nutritionist, this is not a protected title in Britain, and anyone – qualified or not – is free to use it.
However, Holford clearly understands that it would be desirable for a nutritionist to have a scientific education. See, for example, his discussion of the matter when discussing the issue of what is a nutritionist and what is a nutritionist’s training with Dr Emer Keeling.
It is regrettable that he wasn’t more forthcoming about his own actual training and credentials in nutrition with Emer Keeling. (For more information and the full interview, see Holford Watch.)
Who are we?
We have made clear criticisms of Patrick Holford’s work in plain direct language. No insinuation is necessary when describing the work of Patrick Holford: we simply make clear criticisms of his products, claims, and ideas.
We are not funded by Big Pharma or Big Farmer, and we have no links with any conspiracy: we are simply interested and concerned people who believe that Holford’s work, while superficially plausible, may be ultimately misleading, distracting, expensive, disempowering, and unhelpful. We believe in healthy lifestyles that can be simple and empowering for all. We maintain our modest anonymity because we don’t want you to believe what you read here due to the authority of the authors: follow the links, and read about the ideas on this page for yourself.