Patrick Holford’s “Smart Kids Brain Boost”

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Posted 01 September 2011

There is no magic pill for success at school, says education NGO

Michelle Jones – Education Writer
Cape Times 31 August 2011

TAKING a nutritional supplement will not help pupils achieve at school and advertisers should not claim this, says NGO Equal Education.

The group has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority of SA (ASA) about an advertisement for Patrick Holford's "Smart Kids Brain Boost". 

Holford, a widely published author on nutrition and health issues, and producer of a range of health supplements, said he would provide the ASA with evidence to substantiate the advert's claim. 

He is wrapping up a trip to South Africa as part of his "Say no to diabetes" world tour, and is expected to speak in Nairobi tomorrow. 

Equal Education, a movement working for quality and equality in education, said in a statement released yesterday that the advert had been aired on several radio stations. 

Holford's website says that the product contains phospholipids, amino acids and vitamin B, which will "nourish your child's brain to promote learning, memory and focus". 

The website includes research information to substantiate its claims. 

Equal Education said the advert's claims violated several clauses of the ASA advertising code, including one which says "advertisements should not exploit the natural credulity of children or their lack of experience and should not strain their sense of loyalty". 

"The claim that this supplement will improve the school performance of children is unsubstantiated and misleading," it said.

The group said children could believe the supplement was a short cut to achieving improved results. "It is wrong for Mr Holford to make unsubstantiated claims that take advantage of the desire young people have to succeed in school," the group said. 

"Succeeding in school requires adequate resources, good teachers and hard work, There is, unfortunately, no short cut based on Mr Holford's products." Holford told the Cape Times it was an "undeniable scientific fact that supplementing vitamins increases the non-verbal IQ of children, especially in poorly nourished children, but also in those considered well-nourished". 

"There are more than a dozen well-designed placebo-controlled trials that show this to be true. 

"Encouraging all children to be optimally nourished gives them the opportunity to reach their full academic potential." 

He said results from a trial, which was published in the Lancet medical journal, were based on his research and showed a 10 point increase in IQ in subjects who were taking the supplements, as opposed to a three point increase on the dummy pills. 

Holford said he had worked with one of the UK's worst-performing schools and, by improving diet and giving supplements, the school had increased its average maths scores by 25 percent in seven months. 

ASA spokeswoman Corne Koch confirmed that the complaint had been lodged by the NGO. 

She said it had been submitted yesterday via the ASA's website.

My comments:

I went looking to see if Patrick Holford has any articles published in the Lancet. Nothing.

I went looking to see if there was anything published in the Lancet on this product or same mix of ingredients. Nothing.

I then looked at the claims for the individual ingredients on the very credible Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.

Nothing for the product as a whole. For the individual ingredients, also actually nothing. 

Arginine Pyroglutamate
Nothing on IQ or cognitive stuff 

FOLIC ACID
LIKELY INEFFECTIVE
Cognitive function. There is conflicting evidence about the role of folic acid in age-related cognitive decline. Some evidence shows that taking folic acid 1000 mcg plus vitamin B6 10 mg, and vitamin B12 500 mcg daily for 2 years does not improve measures of cognitive function in men and women aged 65 or older from New Zealand (14392). A large-scale population study in the US suggests that people over 65 years of age, who consume large amounts of folic acid (median of 742 mcg/day), actually have cognitive decline at a rate twice as fast as those consuming smaller amounts (median of 186 mcg/day) (13068). However, a large-scale clinical trial in men and women aged 50-70 years from the Netherlands who have high homocysteine levels shows that taking folic acid 800 mcg/day for 3 years increases memory, information processing, and other measures of cognitive function (15271). The reason for the discrepant findings is not clear, but might relate to differences in the patient populations studied. People with higher baseline folic acid intake, such as in countries where food is fortified with folic acid, and people with normal homocysteine levels might be less likely to respond to folic acid supplementation. 

Phosphatidyl Choline
INSUFFICIENT RELIABLE EVIDENCE to RATE
Memory. There is preliminary evidence that taking a single dose of phosphatidylcholine 25 grams (PC-55, TwinLab) can improve some measures of memory in healthy college students (5228).

PHOSPHATIDYL SERINE
Effectiveness: POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE
Age-related cognitive impairment. Clinical studies show that phosphatidylserine improves attention, arousal, verbal fluency, and memory in aging people with cognitive deterioration (2440,2441,7119,7120,15539). Most clinical studies have used phosphatidylserine derived from bovine cortex. However most supplements now use soy or cabbage derived phosphatidylserine. There is also preliminary evidence that plant derived phosphatidylserine improves memory in people with age-associated memory impairment (15539).

(Note: not on children!)  

TMG (Trimethylglcine)
BETAINE ANHYDROUS  (Also Known As: Trimethylglycine)
Nothing on cognitive or IQ 

There is no evidence that the remaining vitamins have any real effect on IQ.

Here is a fascinating study, published in the Lancet, which shows that purely by increasing the interaction with children (a specific group – growth-stunted Jamaican children), that IQ increased:

"We recorded no significant effects of nutritional supplementation. Compared with no intervention, stimulation resulted in higher full scale IQ scores". http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16298218

Walker SP, Chang SM, Powell CA, Grantham-McGregor SM. Effects of early childhood psychosocial stimulation and nutritional supplementation on cognition and education in growth-stunted Jamaican children: prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2005 Nov 19;366(9499):1804-7.

As Dr Ben Goldacre has previously stated, Patrick Holford is basically a con.

Read also: Targeting the quackery of Patrick Holford

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