From Cochrane reviews to celeb bowels: Holford bestrides the arena

Star UK Nutri-Guru Patrick Holford may not be an Honorary Professor any more, but he still likes to quote (or perhaps “cherry-pick”) science to help pitch his advice, books and supplements.

An example is on the extensive website dealing with the modestly-entitled “Holford Low-GL diet”, where he has a bit talking about a recent Cochrane review of Low Glycaemic Index (GI) / Low Glycaemic Load (GL) diets for weight loss. Somewhat oddly, since the review is about both, Holford’s site only talks about the study saying that low GL diets might help with weight loss (in fact, he manages to mention this a stunning seven times in under 200 words). I hope this omission of any mention of low GI diets is not coloured by the fact that Patrick promotes “low GL” schemes heavily as being far superior to “low GI” ones. Perhaps I will come back to this another time.


Science (ish) AND celebrity testimonial! How splendid.

Directly under the link to the Cochrane review on Holford’s website is a link to the inevitable celebrity testimonial anecdote, where we are treated to the story of Z-list celeb and serial footballer-dater Danielle Lloyd’s dramatic loss of 10 lbs on the Holford diet.

Patrick tells us that poor Danielle was in a bad way when she consulted him:

“A diet of crisps, sweets, McDonalds and beer as well as lack of exercise had led to Danielle becoming her heaviest ever, and suffering from health problems such as poor digestion, lack of energy and severe premenstrual syndrome.”

Ah… so that was what all the Celebrity Big Brother 5 fuss was about…

Anyway, the food Patrick’s diet includes, if the daily menu listed for Ms Lloyd is representative, is perfectly sensible. Of course, this is not altogether surprising since there is rather less difference than you might think between a “detailed Low-GL weight loss diet plan” and the famously concise dietary advice from New York Times writer Michael Pollan that Holfordwatch like to quote:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”


But – Food is never enough for Nutritionistas

If sensible dietary advice was all that was on the table (lame pun), Patrick and the rest of the Nutri-gurus would not annoy me so much. As ever, though, the Nutritionistas cannot just leave it at that. You invariably need a whole load of add-on nonsense too, preferably at considerable expense (to you).

This pattern is followed for Danielle Lloyd. As Patrick goes on to tell us, after the inevitable York Laboratories “Food Intolerance” test


– and the equally inevitable resulting diagnosis of “dairy intolerance”

(PS – does anyone who has Patrick’s tests ever NOT get diagnosed with dairy intolerance?)

– Ms Lloyd is now much restored, thanks to, inter alia:

“[ supplemental] digestive enzymes, probiotics and a teaspoon of glutamine powder- which is like an MOT for your insides.”

Luckily, Danielle will not have to maintain this punishing regime because now that she has had her Holford Full Service Bowel MOT she can be kept roadworthy with some minimal (though not exactly cheap) routine nutritional maintenance:

“She will… not need these but will continue to take my Optimum Nutrition Pack”.

Which is one of Patrick’s cheaper supplements at a mere £ 1.25 a day. The advertisting tells us that this supplement is Taken on a daily basis by Patrick Holford himself”.


A (proper) doctor writes

Dr Crippen over at NHS Blog Doctor has been blogging about nutritionists this weekend, and summarizes the mainstream medical and scientific view – and cynicism about the supplement peddlers – thus:

“There is nothing wrong with dietary advice and anyone out there wanting sound dietary advice need look no further than the British Dietetic Association which I frequently recommend to patients. There is nothing wrong with good nutrition either. Where most doctors part company with “nutritionists” is when they start to make extravagant and scientifically unfounded claims about the healing powers of particular nutritional regimens. Eat more “insert your favourite food” and you will have less chance of getting “insert your favourite cancer”. Odd diets are often supplemented by recommendations to take huge quantities of additional minerals and vitamins, and the really astute “nutritionists” will have internet web sites from where they sell plausible combinations of said vitamins and minerals.”

Of course, this doesn’t sounds like a description that could fit Patrick Holford…


No, surely not. Patrick truly bestrides the world of nutrition like a colossus. From Cochrane reviews to Micro-celeb tummy in one click of a mouse. Truly, mere words cannot do the man justice.

7 Responses to “From Cochrane reviews to celeb bowels: Holford bestrides the arena”

  1. dvnutrix Says:

    Who knew that changing from a “diet of crisps, sweets, McDonalds and beer as well as lack of exercise” to anything that vaguely resembled whole foods along with some exercise would bring about such a transformation? Oh come on, somebody must have been surprised by this. No?

    Given that we learned more than some of us would wish about the regularity of Danielle Lloyd’s menstrual cycle (miraculously restored after 6 weeks?!? How many do most women need to be sure that the have a pattern established? More than they would experience in 6 weeks, that’s for sure) – should we utter silent thanks that we were spared details of other ‘regularities’? Although, possibly this is because YorkTest only introduced their stool analysis test this year so Danielle missed out on that particular delight. Sharing your candida count with the world or learning about foods that she doesn’t fully digest and in general, the full McKeith-style rundown of things one doesn’t care to consider so soon after breakfast.

    I hope this omission of any mention of low GI diets is not coloured by the fact that Patrick promotes “low GL” schemes heavily as being far superior to “low GI” ones.

    Ah ha ha ha. Wipes eyes. Recalls that some people say that laughter has the same affect on your gut as a gentle jog. Thanks Dr Aust for the workout.

  2. Claire Says:

    I see Mr Holford refers to the Cochrane review as ‘this well-respected study’. Does this mean he’s also a fan of the recent Cochrane review of anti-oxidants?

  3. She-Liger Says:

    Holford is microbe….

  4. draust Says:

    “She-Liger”, I really have no idea what you are on about.

    You are, of course, free to post rants about Edzard Ernst and David Colquhoun on you own blog. However, I am not going to leave up any more links here to what are basically strings of baseless insults. The fact that you don’t like Ernst and Colquhoun has no bearing whatsoever on their scientific standing.

    So: I will leave the above link, but this is the last time.

  5. She-Liger Says:

    Doctor, you have too slow mind.
    The essence of question is following.
    Holford is a little creature, which doesn’t deserve the attention at all.
    You are a little person too.
    Ernst is main enemy.
    And your “favourite” Colquhoun is a coward and a fool.

    That’s all.

  6. draust Says:

    And you are deluded. Please do us all a favour and get lost.

  7. She-Liger Says:

    Who does answer me so?
    Here is his own words:
    “…(ii) 20 yrs experience of doing (mostly unsuccessful) science;
    (iv) a lifetime’s experience of curmudgeonly grouching….”

    It is not surprising that you defend them. You are bad scientist yourself.

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