Holford’s Full Responses

April 1, 2008 at 4:10 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Patrick Holford, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , )

Having listened to part two of the Radio 4 show The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists, I followed some links that had been posted on Ben Goldacre’s blog by Patrick Holford’s PR at 100% health and reached a page titled “Patrick’s full responses to Radio Four’s questions”.

The first clarification/response is on the Gladys Block paper. I seem to recall someone on the Radio 4 programme making the point that the people who were taking supplements may well have been taking other positive steps to improve health/maintain good health. I’d imagine it might be tricky to work out if there really were beneficial health effects from supplements if, say, the people who tended to take supplements also tended to: be in a different social class; and/or take more exercise; and/or eat a better diet. Rather than clarifying or defending his position, however, Mr Holford has simply linked to his original comments on the Block paper. No mention of the confounding factors that were referred to during the broadcast. How is that a ‘full response’ to Radio 4’s questions? Never mind ‘full’ – it’s not even a response.

Incidentally, the authors of that study made clear in their conclusion that their “study findings should also be weighed in the context of recent randomized controlled trials and related meta-analyses [39,40] which have raised concern about potential detrimental effects of select dietary supplements, particularly beta carotene and alpha tocopherol.” Ref 39 is to the Bjelakovic study. You know, the one that was a systematic review and meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. That’s right – it’s the one that Patrick Holford criticised for not using two observational studies.

*Check out Holford Watch on Patrick and The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists here and here. EDIT: Holford Watch have previously covered the Block paper here.

**Patrick’s pages can be seen here and here.

***PDF of study: here.

****EDIT: Nearly forgot – there’s also a site called Holford Myths.



  1. pv said,

    How is that a ‘full response’ to Radio 4’s questions?

    I agree, it’s not an answer at all. But doesn’t Holford regard it as a response to a question rather than an answer. Who said anything about answers? Anyway, it’s a standard woo trick of repeating something so often, in spite of its wrongness or meaninglessness, that it wears the reader down into just accepting it.

  2. ben goldacre said,

    it is a pretty extraordinary non-answer to a clearly explained criticism in the programme. i think this demonstrates fairly clearly the depth of professor holford’s scholarship.

  3. jdc325 said,

    See here for a look at another of Patrick’s responses. See also my del.icio.us page – I’ll be adding in links to other blogs that have looked at Patrick Holford’s responses: http://del.icio.us/jdc325 – Holford Watch and Gimpy are already on there.

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