Posted 02 September 2011
On the 1st September 2011, Patrick Holford released the media statement below in response to the media release by the NGO Equal Education, which pointed out that taking a nutritional supplement will not help pupils achieve at school and advertisers should not claim this.
Is Patrick Holford an incompetent “scientist” or simply a bare-faced liar?
Does this pan out?
Let us first deconstruct the media statement above: “The first trial, published in the Lancet medical journal, was part of a BBC documentary, was based on my research . . ”. I would ask, since when is the chief researcher not one of the authors of the publication? This does not make sense. But let’s not focus on this. Let’s focus on the sentence: “There are more than a dozen well designed placebo controlled trials that show this to be true (see attached)” and see if the science fits the claims.
I have copied exactly the attachment that accompanied the press release below. I have numbered the references so that I can refer to them.
The first comment is that clearly Holford feels that by throwing 14 pages of “scientific articles” at one, that the claims must be true. In other words, trying to drown one with data. Sorry, does not work. None of the articles are overwhelming proof of his claims.
The most significant fact is that Holford has taken these studies completely out of context – either because he is scientifically naïve, or simply a bare-faced liar. Most of the studies are fairly old. However, the most interesting one is article 1.
Article 1 is the most recent study published (2001), and in fact is a summary of previous articles published on the topic 9 years previously. Significantly, the author of article 1 is also the lead or co-author of articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 28, which Holford says supports his arguments. Ooops! It actually speaks against Holfords claims.
Read this twice:
The evidence is that not all children respond to supplementation, rather there is a minority who benefit, whose diet offers low amounts of micro-nutrients. Such observations are consistent with dietary surveys that typically report a sub-set of children with a low intake. The topic is at a very early stage and needs the clarification gained from a series of large-scale studies that consider children of a wide range of ages, dietary styles and social backgrounds.
But this is where it gets interesting. The author of article 1 (2001), is the same author of the earlier article, article 6 (1988), which Holford uses as the prime study to support his claims. But in 1990 Trustwell wrote (not on Holford’s list of references) in response to article 6: “In 1988 a multivitamin and multimineral supplement was reported to improve the performance in non-verbal intelligence tests of 30 schoolchildren in Wrexham in an eight month double blind trial. Though the authors warned that their study needed to be repeated, for the media it was big news. The story broke on television two days before the article was published in the Lancet.’ The British nutrition establishment found many weaknesses in the trial,2-9 and two attempts to confirm the results failed.10,11
Truswell S. Who should take vitamin supplements? BMJ. 1990 Jul 21;301(6744):135-6.
Holford claims that article 33 supports his argument. In fact, the conclusion of this article states:
This study confirms that vitamin-mineral supplementation modestly raised the nonverbal intelligence of some groups of Western schoolchildren by 2 to 3 points but not that of most Western schoolchildren, presumably because the majority were already adequately nourished. This study also confirms that vitamin-mineral supplementation markedly raises the non-verbal intelligence of a minority of Western schoolchildren, presumably because they were too poorly nourished before supplementation for optimal brain function. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=10706232
All 50 studies have nothing to do with Holford’s mix of ingredients, and some studies do not use a single one of Holford’s ingredients.
Many of the studies contradict Holford’s argument, e.g., article 18: “Initial findings show that such supplementation will benefit those children on a poor diet, but it is unlikely that any improvement in intellectual performance will be proven.”
So Patrick Holford either does not understand this conclusion or simply ignores exactly what it states.
Ingredients of SMART KIDS BRAIN BOOST®
- Arginine Pyroglutamate 150 mg
- Phosphatidyl Choline (23%) 30 mg
- Vitamin B5 (as pantothenic acid) 50 mg
- TMG (trimethylglycine) 50 mg
- Phosphatidyl Serine (20%) 15 mg
- Vitamin B3 (as nicotinic acid) 5 mg
- Folic Acid 67 mcg
- Vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin) 3 mcg
Not one of the 50 references supplied by Holford investigated this exact combination of substances and therefore there is no evidence for this product as a whole.
I have shown that there is insufficient evidence (or zero) to support the claims for the individual ingredients here.
I have deconstructed every one of the 50 references that Holford supplies to support his claims, showing that none support his claims. This document (pdf format) can be accessed here.
It is evident that Patrick Holford fails Science 101, or is a bare-faced liar.