Had dodgy advice from a nutritional therapist? We have!

by , Senior Food Researcher Consumer Rights 16 January 2012
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Have you ever visited a nutritional therapist? In this month’s Which? magazine we investigated the profession and found some worrying practices, such as therapists advising against going to your GP.

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One therapist advised our researcher, who was posing as a cancer sufferer, against having conventional treatment (a lumpectomy and radiotherapy), saying that she should try for three to six months to rid herself of the cancer through diet (by cutting out sugar).

Nutritional therapy can be big business; therapists charge up to £80 for a consultation and often prescribe expensive supplements on top. So we wanted to investigate whether it was worth the money.

How our investigation worked

We asked five undercover researchers to each visit three therapists. Each researcher was provided with a scenario.

One researcher (in her early 30s) had been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for over a year. Two (in their 50s) had been suffering from severe tiredness for the past three months. And two women (in their 40s) had recently been diagnosed with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer.

A panel of experts (a dietitian, a GP and a Professor of Pharmacology) then assessed recordings of the visits and any other information the therapists provided to the researchers, including prescriptions for supplements.

Are nutritional therapists worth the money?

Our expert panel concluded that visiting a nutritional therapist wasn’t worth the money – and in some cases could have actually endangered the health of the researcher. Six of the fifteen consultations were rated as ‘dangerous fails’.

This could have been down to a number of reasons:

  • The advice given by the therapist could have potentially harmed the researcher.
  • Therapists were diagnosing conditions without relevant testing (even though their Code of Practice says they shouldn’t diagnose).
  • Researchers were advised not to visit their GPs about the problem, recommending unproven testing such as hair mineral analysis, and the case above, advising against cancer treatment.

Of the remaining visits, eight were rated as ‘fails’ and only one was graded as a ‘borderline pass’. Our experts were disappointed by the advice given by therapists and concerned at their poor knowledge of the body and how it works.

The experts were also worried by some therapists using non-evidence-based testing to diagnose symptoms. These tests included iridology (studying the patterns, colour and other characteristics of the iris), hair mineral analysis and a researcher being given several liquids to hold in his mouth before being told he had a chromium deficiency.

Are the recommendations right?

Twelve of the therapists prescribed supplements to the researchers, costing up to £70 a month. Researchers were told not to buy them from Boots or other high street chemists as they weren’t ‘pure enough’ and you were effectively ‘flushing your money down the loo’. Instead, they were asked to buy them from the retailers recommended by the therapist.

Of course, there is benefit in following healthy dietary advice, but most of what was provided by the nutritional therapists is freely available on websites such as the NHS site.

Plus, most of the therapists in our investigation recommended quite restrictive diets that excluded several foods (predominantly dairy and wheat) and taking expensive supplements.

If you do have a medical condition that you are concerned about, your first port of call should be your GP. If necessary they can then refer you to a dietitian. We have contacted the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) with our findings and concerns.

People who have visited nutritional therapists emailed us to say that they found the diets recommended to them difficult to maintain over a long time and eventually gave up.

Have you visited a nutritional therapist? What was your experience like – do any of these findings ring true or did you have a more positive experience?

1951 comments

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RICHARD

Hello Maria: I’m not qualified myself to answer that, though there should be well qualified experts who have studied and practiced in this field. I’m sure the the Council for Nutritional Therapy would be a good place to start.

 
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Maria

@Richard

Thank you for your response. I’m surprised you feel your own lack of qualification should preclude you from saying what you consider to be appropriate qualifications for the task of assessing advice given by NTs, especially when this hasn’t stopped you saying what qualifications you think are not appropriate.

I hadn’t heard of the Nutritional Therapy Council before so thanks for the heads up. Having perused their website, I respectfully suggest that, if an objective assessment is what’s required, the Nutritional Therapy Council would be a very bad place to start.

In Which? magazine I expect to see topics approached from the perspective of the potential consumer, not from the perspective of the industry being investigated. It’s a consumers’ magazine and any panel selected to assess the results of such investigations must have the confidence of the potential consumer. I think a panel that includes people who have a vested interest in the public image and the reputation of the industry being investigated, is unlikely to have the confidence of the potential consumer.

The Which? article reports that some therapists are giving potentially dangerous medical advice and recommending unnecessary supplements. As a potential consumer – rather than a promoter – I have to say that I have more confidence in the judgement of a physician, a dietician and a pharmacologist than in people who have completed the courses accredited by the NTC and worked as NTs. How could we know they’re not giving equally bad advice themselves?

 
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jamesy

To Wavelength

With respect I picked vitamin D to make a point as it actually has low toxicity in relation to normal recommended dose – it is necessary to multiply dose many times before it becomes toxic. It is harmful to generalise and throw together all supplements vitamins and drugs (you give aspirin as an example). Vitamin D is a classic example of how new research is demonstrating the positive benefit/risk ratio even at higher doses. People need to know this. If you or anyone is in doubt please look at the work of Dr Veith at University of Toronto

 
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wavechange

Vitamin D is more difficult than others because exposure to sunlight can produce more than what we consume in our diet, though obviously this will depend on the individual. You are absolutely right that vitamins, drugs and other supplements differ. With drugs the difference between an effective dose and a harmful one is expressed in terms of the therapeutic range (or ratio, or index).

If we take prescribed drugs, the GP, consultant or hospital doctor will prescribe a safe dose, and sometimes (e.g. warfarin) it is necessary to take samples and adjust the dose for a patient. Many non-prescription supplements are unlikely to cause problems but it is well known that St John’s Wort deserves to be used with great care.

It worries me that so many people use supplements without any evidence that they need them. They may be harmless but on the other hand they may not. When I studied chemistry at university, benzene was widely used in teaching labs and I can still remember the smell after nearly 40 years. At the time, no-one knew that it was a rather dangerous chemical. What might we learn about supplements in the next decade?

 
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George Barker

I had indigestion and a feeling of general weakness. I went to Sarah Burt, who said I belonged to a group for whom certain foods caused stomach acidity and this acid found its way all over the body and caused weakness in the muscles. Sarah gave me some horrible potion to start putting thngs right and gave me this guide:

ACID FORMING FOOD

Alcohol, chickpeas, eggs, lentils, noodles, pepper, shellfish ,
asparagus, cocoa, fish, meat, oatmeal, plums, soft drinks,
beans, coffee, flour, milk, olives, poultry sugar, brussels sprouts,
cranberries, legumes, mustard, pasta ,
prunes, tea .

LOW LEVEL ACID-FORMING FOODS

Butter, grains, canned fruit, cheeses ,
ice cream, nuts (most), sulphured fruit

ALKALINE FORMING FOODS

Avocados, corn, dates, fresh fruit (most), fresh vegetables (most), honey, maple syrup, molasses, raisins, soy products, almonds, brazil nuts, buckwheat, chestnuts, Lima beans, millet, soured dairy products potatoes

*ESPECIALLY ALKALINE

apples* garlic *strawberries * spinach *cucumbers *watercress *parsley *
*figs *carrots *celery
,

ADVICE

Try to eat a good percentage of fresh raw foods daily, such as apples, avocados, bananas, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, pears, all fruit and veg reduce acid. Start with small amounts of citrus and add them in slowly. A freshly juiced combination of celery, apple, carrot and parsley would be beneficial.

One has to eat some protein food which is acid forming but this is balanced by following the general recommendations I have been fit ever since. So don’t condemn all complementary nutritionists.

My NHS nurse granddaughter, of course told me it was a load of nonsense – the NHS has a one-size-fits-all nutrition system.

See http://www.sarahburtnd.co.uk/

 
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wavechange

Are you aware that your stomach is intended to contain acid, George?

Some people have problems with acid reflux into the oesophagus (and that can be exacerbated by certain foods and other factors) but I don’t think acid will find its way all round the body as you claim to have been told. The acidity (pH) of the blood is closely controlled.

Your granddaughter may have a point.

 
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jamesy

I do apologise for getting your name wrong – though its true we are not all on the same wavelength!!!

 
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wavechange

No problem. I nearly chose wavelength as my user name, but had already used wavechange on a vintage radio forum.

 
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George Barker

Iridology is geting a ot of stick! I don’t think it is supposed to be more than an additional diagnostic technique with limitations and there is a regulatory international guild. I saw a clear change in the colour of my iris after being cured of acidity problems.

I think that a good practitioner at iridology, herbalism and nutrition can use iridology to help to diagnose and cure diseases that have slipped through the cracks of the NHS at the moment.

 
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david colquhoun

George Barker
No, it is not true that “an additional diagnostic technique with limitations”. It has been shown clearly that it has no diagnostic ability whatsoever. The result are random and the method is simply fraudulent.

 
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George Barker

To David Colquhoun,

I am just an ignorant mechanical engineer airing my theories. The origin of the technique by a vet (some say) and then the Austrian doctor who thought he found correlations in humans as well and now there being an international guild http://www.gni-international.org/ makes it look romantic and attractive! But it doesn’t make it true.

I wonder whether it is the practitioners who claim too much for it who are being shown as deluded. A more believable description ot its limitations is:
“Iridology does not reveal specific diseases because many diseases create similar changes in body tissues.
The iris reflects the condition of the tissues (eg. inflammation, acidity, toxicity, congested lymph, hardened arteries, etc.) Iridology is therefore not concerned with named diseases but with restoration and maintenance of health through building up the patient’s immunity and life force”. A. Jackson Read his book “Eye Signs”

The nutritionist who gave me a successful regime claimed what we saw in my eyes was a condition of acidity in my tissues, not a specific disease. As far as I can remember the blue of the iris was very pale on the inside and coloured up again when the acidity went down.

Quite often people put up an effigy they have created themselves to rubbish.

However you are probably right and what I saw was by coincidence.

all the best,

George Barker 93 and still going strong

 
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RICHARD

Hi Maria
I quote from Wikipedia: “In academia peer review is often used to determine an academic paper’s suitability for publication.” “Professional peer review activity is widespread in the field of health care” and “Peer review requires a community of experts in a given (and often narrowly defined) field, who are qualified and able to perform impartial review.” If it is widespread and considered essential in the medical profession, why would one not include at least one Nutritional Therapist in a panel of experts – especially when clearly the other 3 are NOT experts in the field being reviewed?
If Which? chose to do a survey of patients’ thoughts on the care received and level of accurate diagnosis given by their GP and other medics, would it be unreasonable to include a qualified GP in such a panel?

 
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david colquhoun

The reason for not including a nutritional therapist on the panel has been explained several times already. They are the group under investigation. It would make as much sense as having a washing machine manufacturer on the panel judging washing machines.

In fact it’s much worse than that because so many nutritional therapists use methods (like iridilogy) that are well known to be nonsense. Such people disqualify themselves from assessing evidence.

In any case, the panel included one of the country’s foremost experts in nutrition, Catherine Collins.

And, on top of that, you don’t need a great deal of expertise to know that it’s very foolish to suggest to a patient with breast cancer that they should postpone treatment for 3 to 6 months. Any sensible member of the public can see that, and it’s a tragedy the BANT can not.

 
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Maria

Richard

It is indeed the case that peer review is employed in academia to determine the validity, originality and importance of a paper before deciding whether to publish it. It is also the case that peer review – with a somewhat different meaning – is widespread in many occupations that provide a service to the public, as a means of staff development and maintaining standards.

However, as I said before, Which? is a consumer magazine whose purpose above all else is to protect the consumer. It doesn’t publish academic studies or peer reviews. It publishes articles that alert consumers to pitfalls when choosing products and services and, if it is to be taken seriously by its target market, it needs to be sure that the information it provides has been evaluated by experts who have no competing interests. In this case, NTs do have competing interests.

I am happy to agree to differ on the matter of whether a dietician is enough of an expert in nutrition, whether a GP is enough of an expert in how the body works and disease processes and whether David Colquhoun is enough of an expert in the statistical assessment of evidence. I am satisfied by my own investigations that they are and, as a result of what I have read over the past few days, I’m sorry I can’t say the same of NTs as a group.

I’m happy for all those who feel they’ve benefitted from seeing an NT and I’m sure some of them are very good. But as a profession, they have a long way to go before they can hope to achieve the status they seem to think they are entitled to.

 
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Monika

I’m going to have to sign off this forum now but would like to say thank you to all who posted it has been a really interesting discussion.
Cheers.

 
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jamesy

Please can we now have an article by the press about several nutritional therapists describing how they work in an evidence based fashion. I know that the practice of some NTs is highly professional and the results that they have are noticeable. This deserves to be highlighted.

What happens about therapists (and other professionals eg GPs) who do not meet minimum standards is a separate issue

 
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Rose

Dear Maria and David

As a consumer, I am not taking anything you have put forward here as serious.. You say peer reviews do determine validity, but in the case of Which, and this article it does not. That’s what I read as a consumer. I don’t think you ate looking after consumer rights here, you are clearly against an emerging approach to health and, from what I can see a successful one from the comments made by the “consumer. There is clear statement by David that he is prejudiced because he has admitted it and is make very rude comments about a fellow profession, so in my opinion as a consumer he should not have been part of the panel.. Maria you too have made a remark that I find very offensive, that suggest you feel these profession have an ego trip.. As a consumer that what it sounds like to me…so I don’t think you have Consumers interests at heart here, just your own..
I have no idea who you are, but iyou too do come across as prejudice, so as a consumer it’s a one sided opinion.. Now in my opinion you both are part of the problem since it seems to
Me as a consumer, you want This profession to go away. If that is not the case what is your solution

It is clear that all professions need to
Be regulated, and what I see as a consumer That they are in the process of this. As regards to cost, David and Maria would you like to share what you earn…

 
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Maria

Rose

I am happy to engage with you about the issues raised in the Which? article and to do so in a civil manner and without casting aspersions on your character and motives. Is it too much to hope that you might do the same?

You wrote,

“Maria you too have made a remark that I find very offensive, that suggest you feel these profession have an ego trip..”

I love to know which particular remark of mine you managed to infer this from as I have suggested nothing of the sort.

 
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nobbyuk

rose as a consumer myself i find it hard to believe that you would say that Which has produced an article that is not in the consumers interest just becasue you do not agree with the outcome.

As a consumer myself i do not find any fault with the panel as it was independant of the nutritional therapist industry they were looking at. Which has done what it does best and produced a report for the consumer to use as a guideline. if nutritionists feel let down by this then it is up to them to increase consumer confidence not Which.

Do you think anyone no matter what their background would have ignored the part when the therapist when they said they should postpone cancer treatment for example?

 
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chrisb

I agree with you Rose; I haven’t taken anything that has been said here seriously for the most part because my last post made this morning in this thread was censored without trace. It addressed a few sweeping and inaccurate generalizations.
There is a Mainstream agenda here that I no longer wish to be part of. I recall a book which this thread brings to mind from certain posters called: Open Skies–Closed Minds.

 

Hello chris, sorry but your comment was in our moderation queue due to the included links. Any comment with links to external websites need to be checked manually to make sure they don’t take readers to inappropriate or irrelevant content. I have approved your comment now. Also, just because others disagree with you does not mean there is an agenda. Everyone is free to express their opinions here on Which? Convo. Thanks.

 
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wavechange

Thanks for explaining about moderation of messages. The software detects these messages so it might be possible to warn contributors that a message containing a link or email address has been queued for moderation, which would avoid anyone assuming that their message has been censored or that they have not submitted it correctly. If this not possible, a note in the instructions might be useful, so that everyone is aware of the process.

 

Hi Wavechange, that’s a good idea. Our latest addition to Which? Convo is an FAQ with all the questions and answers you can think of.

I’ve just added new questions to reflect our moderation of comments, so if you’d like to find out more, please go to this link: http://conversation.which.co.uk/frequently-asked-questions/

We’ve also added a Tags A-Z, which we know was requested by many readers; http://conversation.which.co.uk/tags/

Thanks.

 
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wavechange

Thanks Patrick.

… an FAQ with all the questions and answers you can think of.
That sounds like a challenge. :-)

 
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Rose

Hello Maria

The last remark, as a consumer this is how I view it.. I say a consumer, because that’s what I am. I have no idea who you are… but you seem to have put your views across in a similar manner by saying this.. I am sure you don’t see it that way, but I did… I do not understand why you all cannot now take this forward and work with the profession..

 
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Maria

Rose

I’m not finding it easy to follow your last post but, if I understand you correctly, you are saying it was the last remark I made in my response to Richard that you are “very offended by” because you think it suggests “these profession (sic) have an ego trip..”

This is the remark you are offended by:

“But as a profession, they have a long way to go before they can hope to achieve the status they seem to think they are entitled to.”

That NTs have a long way to go as a profession is evidenced by the fact that, “Which? investigated nutritional therapists in 2000 and the findings then were cause for concern, but the results of this recent investigation are even more alarming.” That they think they are entitled to the same status as dietitians is evidenced by the information offered on the websites of their professional body and their professional standards council as well as by the numerous websites of individual practitioners and the posts of some NTs who have contributed to this discussion.

There is no suggestion of any ego trip. Please try to concentrate on the arguments being presented here. Don’t misrepresent what others write and stop reading things into what people write that simply aren’t there.

 
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natasha

Of course BANT must now realise that a few of its members are acting unprofessionally and take action but that does not condemn nutritional therapists as a whole. Its like saying the GP who advised about 10 times I had nothing wrong with my thyroid and refused to refer me when I actually had a thyroid cancer represents the actions of all GPs

 
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Katie

To George Barker

Re the ‘potential’ strengths and weaknesses of Iridology. Some extremely thoughtful and well informed comments. We will probably never understand scientifically how useful it is or not. As long as people don’t place too much reliance on it why shouldnt it have a place.

 
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nobbyuk

i thought the wiki page explained how incredibly unreliable it was and how scientific testing showed it was useless. why not ask car makers to change the fuel gauge with something that is not reliably measuring how much fuel you have to the point where it is not better than chance and see how long it is before you think that still has a place as well.

 
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John Lyons

Katie, you wrote…

“We will probably never understand scientifically how useful it is or not. As long as people don’t place too much reliance on it why shouldn’t it have a place.”

Because everything known about modern health care rests on knowing how useful something is. That’s what the scientific method tries to do – to establish in a reliable and repeatable way that if x happens, y follows. So if we don’t at least have an idea of how useful something is, then it has no use.

But we don’t have that problem with iridology. If one believes David Colquhoun – and I do – then it has never been shown to have any use as a diagnostic tool. Problem solved.

 
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Rose

To all that have commented to me. First of all I still don’t know who Maria is, I am only forming my view as I see it and that’s how I see it.. Perhaps Maria you could a) say who you are and B) explain why they shouldn’t… Then perhaps I could understand you better…

I am not sure I said I don’t agree with the outcome, just not sure I believe all of what is being written…

 
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Maria

Rose

This is getting wearisome. This is not about who I am or who you are. There is nothing about me you need to “understand”. In all my posts here I have focussed entirely on the issues; please do the same and stop trying to make it personal.

 
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david colquhoun

I’m rather taken by the article by excellent Glasgow GP, Des Spence, in the current BMJ: Bad Medicine: Medical Nutrition. The article ends thus.

“We are being force fed the medicalisation of food and have been distracted from the real problem—that most fundamental of nursing duties—feeding. The huge costs and the rapid increase in the use of supplements should raise concerns about their appropriateness. Cost savings could pay for additional
carers and improve budgets for catering throughout the care community. Tasty whole food is the best medicine.”

That could make a fitting epitaph for this discussion.

 
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chazza

@ David
Yes I would agree that tasty whole food is the best medicine, however the fact remains that a large proportion of the population is not achieving this. Hospital food has has a notoriously poor nutritional content. In becoming a nutritional therapist I hope, working alongside the medical profession, to attempt to reverse this. It would be a shame if we cannot find a way to do this.

 
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Katie

John

Did you read George Barkers comments about what iridology is about and his experience??? My reply was in support of his comments. Please read his reply again if you can.

I truly believe in the modern scientific method but ask a different question and you get a different answer. Studies have always asked the wrong question and tried to determine if a disease can be diagnosed using iridology and thats not what iridology is about – again I refer to Barkers piece above – any future research would need to ask a different question. I doubt that there will be future research so I go back to my comment in my last response – if people know its just an adjunct and they shouldnt place too much reliance on it – (they can choose to see a practitioner who doesnt offer it) it might prove useful. I have to add I have had iris diagnosis and didnt find it particularly useful or potentially relevant like Barker – but I still stand by these comments. There is room in this world for the scientific method and things that so far have eluded it!!!!!

 
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david colquhoun

Katie
What question should be asked then?
The idea of iridology was never more than a rather silly myth, but the important thing is that, despite it’s implausibility, it has been tested.

“Well controlled scientific evaluation of iridology has shown entirely negative results, with all rigorous double blind tests failing to find any statistical significance to its claims.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three iridologists incorrectly identified kidney disease in photographs of irises and often disagreed with each other. The researchers concluded: “iridology was neither selective nor specific, and the likelihood of correct detection was statistically no better than chance.”

One can argue about the merits of expensive supplements, but there is no argument for iridology at all. Anyone who tries to see it to you can be immediately labelled as a snake oil salesman.

 
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John Lyons

Katie,

I re-read George’s post as you asked. I presume I’m meant to take from his account that this one, isolated episode means there’s something in iridology?

It’s good that you believe in the modern scientific method, but a cornerstone of science is that anecdotes are a thoroughly unreliable basis for framing treatments.

 
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jamesy

To David

I have not read this article but will get hold of it. In my opinion, nutrition is not bad medicine at all. Look how many nutritional interventions have made their way into conventional medicine . eg NAC for paracetemol poisoning etc. What about the widespread study and use of milk thistle in Germany?
Where we definitely do agree is that we are not feeding the nation properly and whose fault is that – it is deep rooted. It is not the fault of NTs prescribing supplements or doctors and their lack of reference to food or anyone else.
It is time to do something about the diet of this nation.

 
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wavechange

You say that we need to do something about the diet of this nation and most might agree, if only in principle. There is not an easy way to achieve this and any attempt is likely to be met with complaints about the nanny state.

What could be achieved is to get over the message that most people do not need any form of vitamin, mineral or other supplement if they eat a balanced diet. If tests show that supplements are needed I have no problem with people getting individual advice if poor diet is the reason for a health problem.

 
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david colquhoun

jamesy
I’ll be happy to send you a copy of Des Spence’s column if you email me.

You say
” Look how many nutritional interventions have made their way into conventional medicine . eg NAC for paracetemol poisoning etc”
I don’t see your point. NAC, or N-acetyl-L-cysteine, is a chemical compound that has been found (by doctors and scientists, not by nutritional therapists) to be a useful treatment for paracetamol overdose. It is not a “nutritional intervention”. I think you’ll have to find better examples that this one.

You ask “what about the widespread study and use of milk thistle in Germany?”
I don’t think that has anything to do with the present discussion, but you can find a summary of what’s known about it on the web site of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) http://nccam.nih.gov/health/milkthistle/ataglance.htm
Despite the fact that this organisation has a strong bias towards alternative medicine, you see that they don’t claim that it’s effective for anything.

 
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jamesy

David

The BMJ article you refer to is not without criticism from specialist gastroenterologists within the medical/hopsital community who completely disagree with you and the author of that article about the lack of importance of medical nutrition

 
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david colquhoun

jamesy
Have you read the article yet? It doesn’t say that nutrition is unimportant. It says that too much is spent on unnecessary supplements when what’s needed is good food.

 
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wavechange

The article referred to by David states that the NHS spends £210,000,000 on food supplements in the community alone, and ends by saying that tasty food is the best medicine. Obviously there are many who are too ill to eat properly and use of supplements is justified, but food supplements should not be used as a convenient alternative to proper food.

My only criticism, David, is that you have cited an article that is not available to the general public. That is probably best avoided on a public forum, though I confess to having done the same myself.

 
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jamesy

I will read it. Probably not today
I see from the abstract that we are talking more about in patients/eldery so perhaps the article is not so relevant for the general population and these discussions todaay

 
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Maria

wavechange said

“What could be achieved is to get over the message that most people do not need any form of vitamin, mineral or other supplement if they eat a balanced diet.”

The BBC did a very good job of this on their Food Hospital programme recently when they showed a nutritional physician, Dr Alan Stewart, saying:

“A lot of people aren’t eating that well and they’d be better off to not waste money on supplements but to eat a healthier diet…There’s a real mismatch between who buys supplements and who needs them. The people with the worst diets are not the people taking supplements; it’s actually the people with the best diets who are taking supplements. So the use of supplements currently in the UK only lowers the risk of deficiency by about 1 per cent according to national diet and nutritition survey data.”

It’s strange that the Alliance of Natural Health, who one would expect to take a keen interest in natural ways of staying healthy and who I imagine number a few NTs amongst their followers, don’t mention this in the review of that particular item on their website.

 
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wavechange

It is interesting what you say about those on the best diets taking supplements. Obviously there will be exceptions, but I have seen examples of this. I know a large family with a large disposable income. The children have an excellent diet including home-grown vegetables and fruit when available and none are fussy eaters. Every one of them gets plenty of exercise. I am really impressed by their parents’ efforts in encouraging their children to have a healthy lifestyle.

At least one of the children was given some sort of designer supplement pills among their Christmas gifts. I think that could be the one wrong message the parents are giving to their children and hopefully it is just a harmless waste of money.

 
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Rose

Dear Maria

I am not making it personal, just asked you to two questions, I am a consumer, who is looking into this more now. You have put your views forward, which is good, and quiet rightly as most people have. We all now know who David C is, we have also, thanks to others discovered . BANT, the NTC and others. I am just asking who you are, if you don’t want to say I can only guess you are not a professional or you are and don’t want to be exposed. So I will not ask you again, rest assured…

 
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Maria

“I am not making it personal, just asked you to two questions”,

You asked one personal question, which has nothing to do with the Which? article or any of the issues raised by it. What was the second question? It isn’t clear from your previous post.

“I am a consumer, who is looking into this more now.”

Same here.

“You have put your views forward, which is good, and quiet rightly as most people have.”

Interesting that you should say that now, given that your first contribution to this discussion started with a declaration that you don’t take anything I say here “as serious”.

“We all now know who David C is, we have also, thanks to others discovered . BANT, the NTC and others. I am just asking who you are, if you don’t want to say I can only guess you are not a professional or you are and don’t want to be exposed.”

Sorry, I don’t follow your reasoning here. David C participated in this study so he’s hardly likely to keep his id secret. Why this obsession with who I am? If your question is whether I have any kind of financial interest in anything to do with this topic, the answer is no.

“So I will not ask you again, rest assured…”

Glad to hear it. I am beginning to find your interest in me quite sinister and your haranguing bizarre.

 

Hello both, just to step in here. No-one is required to give their real name on Which? Conversation. Commenters are allowed to post anonymously using a pseudonym – in fact our T&Cs recommend that you do so: http://conversation.which.co.uk/terms-conditions/

What matters here are a poster’s arguments, not their identity. A poster’s decision to provide their identity or not is their choice and theirs alone. Any further comments requesting another person’s identity will be removed. Thanks, Patrick.

 
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Maria

@wavechange

“It is interesting what you say about those on the best diets taking supplements. Obviously there will be exceptions, but I have seen examples of this.”

I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasted more than a few quid myself on the damn things back in the 90s, when I was more gullible. That they never made an iota of difference is not surprising given that I was perfectly healthy, active and eating a balanced diet. That’s money I could have spent a lot more wisely.

I do wonder how those who promote these things to the ‘worried well’ sleep at nights.

 
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Rose

Maria

I don’t take some of your comments seriously, espcially now or of others i make my own mind up,.I just asked two questions in response to some of the points you made.. End of… I had no idea who
David was, or of BANT etc. excuse me for trying to establish an understanding of the some of the points made…

I feel sorry for this new profession, hope they succeed in all they are trying to
Achieve…

 
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Maria

“I just asked two questions in response to some of the points you made.”

Really? Care to repeat those questions? It’s OK, I’ll do it for you. These are the questions you have directed at me:

“Maria would you like to share what you earn…”

and

“Perhaps Maria you could a) say who you are and B) explain why they shouldn’t…”

I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone that these questions were not made in response to any point that I made but arise out of your own preconceptions about me because I have defended the Which? article and criticised those it has exposed. You have not even attempted to engage with any point that I have made and you have also blatantly twisted what David C has said in order to fit your preconceptions about him.

You claim to be a consumer “who is looking into this more now”. I respectfully suggest that when you look into things, you try to do so with a more open mind than you have demonstrated so far.

 
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wavechange

Sorry Maria. Sometimes the words don’t always come out right and I hit Submit before reading what I had written. I meant to say that I have seen examples of people eating good diets and taking supplements.

I confess to having eaten vitamin C tablets when I have been ill and not felt up to eating much fruit and veg, on the basis that this vitamin can be depleted more quickly than others. I have even eaten my way through a whole bottle of glucosamine and chondroitin tablets because a good friend nagged me to try them.

I can understand why so many people turn to supplements if they have chronic pain or other health problems, or are suffering from a disease that is said to be incurable.

 
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Alan Henness

I’ve been away from here for a few days, so…has anyone been able to post any robust evidence that iridology is a reliable and repeatable diagnostic test yet?

What about hair mineral analysis?

 
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wavechange

I would like to see a good scientific review that shows that iridology has any value, but I have found nothing. I see iridology as the modern equivalent of snake oil therapy, but who knows? It came as a bit of a surprise that ulcers could be caused by bacteria growing in the wall of the stomach.

 
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Derek

Rose,

Have you read the Which? report? As I posted earlier, it was an objective description of a survey, with comments by appropriate experts on the advice offered by a number of nutritional therapists.
Although the sample was small, statistical analysis showed the results to be significant.

If I was trying to find out about nutritional therapy, I would consider the report to be a very useful and persuasive piece of evidence of the efficacy or otherwise of nutritional therapy. It is well known that Which? accepts no advertising and has no connection, financial or otherwise with the companies and services on which it reports. The same cannot be said about most of the alternative sources of information for consumers.

 
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jamesy

David

It seems that NAC is referred to in the literature as a dietary therapy in some studies and a drug in others .I dont wish to get pedantic. Both non medically qualified nutrition experts and medical professionals use it in different clinical situations. It doesn’t matter who discovered/started using it in the first place.
The supplement debate will continue. You may not believe it but I like the idea that evidence is needed before an individual takes a vitamin/mineral supplement whether they are in hospital or a member of the public.
Nutritionists/nutritional therapists who practice and give advice as was given to the DCIS patients are not practising safely. I wonder how many with degrees actually gave that advice.

 
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Katie

Perhaps the question about iridology should be ‘Is there anything that can be consistently detected?’ though that might be difficult/costly to research apart from anecdotes Forget diagnoses of actual conditions but perhaps if iridology were shown to for example be able to detect general inflammation – it might lead to an earlier blood test that might then lead to a medical diagnosis – If we dismiss disciplines like iridology after a few small studies we are acting too hastily. I am not saying that the public should be led to believe it is a reliable tool – I think they are intelligent enough to understand that it could be used as an adjunct that may or may not show anything.
I have to say when my mother developed a lung metastase – an iridologist spotted lung inflammation and it was because of this she went to the doctor and the cancer was discovered – the iridologist had no idea about cancer in my mother or any other condition – so I have to be a fan dont I????? though a slightly skeptical one always

 
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wavechange

It looks as if most scientists have ignored iridology because the few reviews that do exist have hardly been cited by other scientists. It would be interesting and not expensive to get patients with known medical problems examined by a number of iridologists (if that is the term) and see if there is any agreement in their findings.

I think it is safer to rely on our NHS system or private medical care, and there may well be a case for more health checks than offered currently, so that serious problems can be detected at an earlier stage.

Which? has come in for a lot of criticism over their investigations into nutritional therapists but they seem to have discovered a problem that deserves further investigation by the appropriate authorities.

 
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Alan Hennsss

Katie said:

“Perhaps the question about iridology should be ‘Is there anything that can be consistently detected?’ though that might be difficult/costly to research”

I don’t think that would be particularly difficult or costly to research. If iridologists claim to be able to diagnose specific medical conditions (I have no idea what ‘general inflammation’ is), then it would be very easy to get a number of them to examine people with those conditions (blinded, of course) and see what the inter- and intra-examiner results were. Doing this in a robust and unbiased manner would seem to be very straightforward.

“If we dismiss disciplines like iridology after a few small studies we are acting too hastily.”

Cart and horse here. Without that robust evidence, why is it being used to diagnose health problems?

(Unless and until there is robust evidence that it is a reliable and repeatable method, how can it be called a ‘discipline’?)

Unless I’ve missed them, I don’t think anyone has actually cited any studies (robust or otherwise) for iridology. However, the issue at hand is that Which? found that several nutritionists – and it appears the Chair of BANT as well – use iridology as a diagnostic test. The question still unanswered here is why is this test (or hair mineral analysis) being used if there is no robust evidence it is any more than quackery?

 
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wavechange

What a pity I cannot attach the sound of a duck. :-)

 
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Elizabeth

It’s such a shame that people like to jump on things that they have no experience of, but have heard a seemingly knowledgeable person do that.
I have regular experience of an iridologist observing signs of problems that then need investigation by other means, which have more specific diagnostic techniques, so that these indications can be investigated by medical practitioners. It is not a complete diagnosis, but an indicator, sometimes difficult to pin down, but it can be a positive guide to what needs to be taken seriously.
One of the limitations of it is that positive proof of a condition cannot be made; only an indication.
So it will always be pretty well impossible to set up tests to measure a diagnosis of a disease.
There have been some notable practitioners who have written about their observations, Dorothy Hall in New Zealand for example, and there are some comprehensive textbooks from America and Germany.

 
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wavechange

There are plenty of people willing to take your money, though I think that most general practitioners would make their own diagnosis and completely ignore the views of iridologists. Believe who you want.

 
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Alan Hennsss

Elizabeth said:

“It is not a complete diagnosis, but an indicator, sometimes difficult to pin down, but it can be a positive guide to what needs to be taken seriously.”

Unless and until someone can come up with robust evidence for this, all we have is your anecdote. You claim it can be a ‘positive guide to what needs to be taken seriously’? In what way do you believe it to be a ‘positive guide’?

“One of the limitations of it is that positive proof of a condition cannot be made; only an indication.”

Let’s leave ‘proof positive’ to one side for the time being and let’s start with evidence that it even reliably and repeatedly gives even an indication. Surely it can’t be that difficult to reach that low hurdle.

“So it will always be pretty well impossible to set up tests to measure a diagnosis of a disease.”

You dismiss this so lightly – yet it would be very easy to do. But has this even ever been tried? If not, why not?

As far as I can see, iridologists make claims about their abilities; these abilities can easily be tested and it is incumbent on those charging for these tests and advising the public on their health based on those results to come up with the evidence.

 
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RICHARD

I am reminded that a ‘great sage’ whose name now escapes me once said something to the effect that if the psychic energy of a football crowd could be harnessed in the cause of peace the world would …. [you can complete this yourselves].
I greatly admire the passion being displayed in this blog on all sides. If only we could harness this concern and the emotional energy behind it in the cause of a unified determination to improve the healthcare options of humanity without blinkered, theoretical and tribal axe-grinding.

For me the jury is still out on the value of many “supplements”. It seems likely that many are substandard and of little value, as preserving the ‘bioavailability’ of the valuable ingredients provided liberally by nature is often difficult. On the other hand zinc, for example, is known to be essential for the health of certain organs and body systems. Modern diets are known to be deficient in zinc. For this reason I take zinc in supplement form – and I choose the best product I can find.

A great deal of what is practised in modern “medicine” is more dangerous than zinc supplementation. A great deal of it may be valuable, but the jury is still out on its overall effectiveness. There are far more horrific mistakes being implemented by those protected by the loosely used label of “science” than by the majority of those that are scorned by Professor Colquhoun simply because he does not ‘believe’ in their approach. Much of what is practised by GPs is completely unscientific. I don’t blame them for that, the science does not exist to cover much of what they do. Yet the notion that mainstream medicine is scientific and that ‘alternative medicine’ is – to quote Professor Colquhoun – “snake oil salesmanship” is dangerously simplistic and naive.

Science has much to offer humanity. It has improved our lives in many ways. Yet much of what happens in the name of science is experimental and eventually found to be lacking in value, no matter how much scientific methodology is behind it.

What compelled me to enter this dialogue was the suspicion that the Which? team have been hoodwinked into believing that Nutritional Therapy is, almost by definition, “snake oil salesmanship”. The composition of their ‘expert panel’ suggests that this was the case. Professor Colquhoun has a right to his opinions and to expending his mental energies on hounding alternative views of life that he dislikes. However, in my view he has disqualified himself from providing any assistance to a body such as Which? that should be rigorous in its neutrality and its search for the truth. I feel that his blatantly biased views are amply displayed by the rantings on his website and indeed in this blog.

If his statement that “I imagine I was asked as an expert in the statistical assessment of evidence” is true, I would encourage Which? to be more vigilant in their choice of ‘expert’ since his well-publicised views on ‘alternative medicine’ I believe disqualifies him from the panel for reasons unconnected with his studies on ‘evidence-based science’, unless there was a predetermined assumption that Nutritional Therapists deserve the contempt he regularly subjects them to.

I believe that, while the jury is still out on the full story, the following statement on BANT’s website needs to be answered by Which?
“Furthermore we propose that this report is heavily biased on the grounds of:-
a) Fundamental differences of opinion between dietary guidelines outlined in the Manual of Dietetics (2007) and those that Nutritional Therapy promotes.
b) At least two of the panellists are well known detractors of Nutritional Therapy
c) There was no attempt to have representation for Nutritional Therapy on the panel and thus no attempt to allow discussion or understanding of the Nutritional Therapy process. This can only lead to a conclusion that it was intended that Nutritional Therapy would be seen to be an apparent fail.”

I have to agree with the last sentence in the above.

As for Professor Colquhoun’s entry above <> I think this typifies the man’s patronising manner which he appears to be accustomed to using in an intellectually lazy but perhaps often successful attempt to convince his students, website visitors and others of his superior intelligence and, by association, of the ‘truth’ of his arguments. Yet in so doing I think he lays bare his completely unscientific way of thinking. This is what BANT have to say (and I have no reason to exclude them from his definition of “any sensible member of the public”):
“We have looked carefully at the transcripts provided by WHICH?, alleging that a practitioner recommends a client refrain from pursuing cancer treatment for a period of time rather just follow a change in diet. Whilst the information could have been better presented we have found no evidence in the transcripts that the practitioner directly made this recommendation, and are thus unable to agree with this finding. The practitioner made it quite clear that the client’s oncologist must be involved and that the client should refer the suggestions to them to seek their opinion and agreement.”

If Professor Colquhoun is genuinely concerned to support improvements in the public’s healthcare, I would urge him to learn some basic humility.

He has no doubt learned that journalists can easily be influenced in their rush to find the next scandalous ‘story’. The success he may have clocked up in driving journalists to accept his beliefs is in my view no success at all. Human success – at least in this realm – is defined by our common goal of healthcare for ALL, and achievement of that is probably a long way down the road. Yet one precondition to achieving that goal is tolerance for each other’s views and an integrated approach to examining the many schools of effective healthcare that go far beyond any one individual’s understanding or specialised study. And for those who believe that nothing that has yet to be ‘proved’ should be used in healthcare, I challenge you to rigorously apply that precept to your own life or those whom you love when disease puts you in the hands of healthcare professionals who can only use their experience, knowledge, skill and, yes, intuition to try to help you. You will find that, as ‘rigorously scientific’ as it might seem to you, that notion is a theory that belongs only in cloud cuckoo land and not to real life.

I realise that my advice to Professor Colquhoun may be hard to accept, especially when in the same piece I am encouraging tolerance for each other’s views. Let me remind him that there is a difference between criticism and contempt. Contempt breeds anger – and that is what I feel when I read his attacks on anything that which does not accord with his very unscientific but religiously promoted views.

I welcome the Which? Team’s interest in healthcare issues, but would encourage them – and indeed any journalist – to look a little deeper then they seem to have done with this particular project, because healthcare is in danger of becoming as politicised as many other areas of modern life, and that is a dangerously superficial viewpoint.

[Hello Richard, we have edited this comment as the statements within it could have been defamatory. Please read our commenting guidelines for more information. Thanks, mods.]

 
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chrisb

Richard,
I agree wholeheartedly with your last post as it reflects my own views entirely.
Just one comment I would add to what you have already said, and worthy of mention is this quote………………..
“Americans have given up the freedom to take care of themselves in favor of the dubious security of supposed protection from ‘quackery,’ ‘unscientific,’ and ‘ineffective’ medicine”.

Strong language? Not at all. A congressional report concludes that only 10 to 20 percent of present-day ‘scientific’ medical procedures have been shown to be of benefit by controlled clinical trial. One possible interpretation of this congressional document is that 80 to 90 percent of modern scientific medicine has no better scientific proof behind it than snake oil”. [Edit.: Only 80-90%?)
Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.

 
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Alan Henness

chrisb said:

“A congressional report concludes that only 10 to 20 percent of present-day ‘scientific’ medical procedures have been shown to be of benefit by controlled clinical trial. One possible interpretation of this congressional document is that 80 to 90 percent of modern scientific medicine has no better scientific proof behind it than snake oil”. [Edit.: Only 80-90%?)
Jonathan V. Wright, M.D.”

These figures originate two surveys of the prescribing practices of 19 family doctors in the north of England over 2 weeks in 1961 – half a century ago. Fortunately for us, much has changed in the last 50 years and science and medicine have progressed leaps and bounds.

This survey was never intended to assess the degree to which GPs were evidence-based, but rather was looking at controlling prescribing costs in terms of generic versus proprietary drugs.

The bmj article that reported all this came up with a figure of 51% for the percentage of treatments that were of unknown effectiveness. But one of the reasons this was so low is that it included a whole swathe of CAM nonsense that had little or zero evidence, bring the figure crashing down.

Another reason is that the figure relates to all treatments even those that are very rarely used. If you look at the percentage of effective treatments that are actually in daily use, you arrive at figures around 80%.

So these oft-quoted figures, very popular amongst CAM supporters, cannot be used to bolster your argument.

Even then, what has that got to do with whether nutritionists use unproven or disproven tests and give misleading or dangerous advice?

 
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Maria

@Richard

“scorned by Professor Colquhoun simply because he does not ‘believe’ in their approach.”

I read as far as this ad hominem and gave up. Maybe others will do better.

 
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RICHARD

Hi Maria

If you had read to the end (admittedly a long entry, sorry about that) you would see that this was not an Ad hominem argument.

 
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Jo

The Which? report says the practitioner advised the patient to delay conventional cancer treatment. BANT says the transcript of the consultation shows nothing of the sort.
Someone is telling porkies or at least bending the truth. Perhaps Which? could look at the facts again and say which is correct without the partisan approaches so far revealed in this thread.

 
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david colquhoun

Richard

Like the other people who claim that the report was biassed, does not reveal his real name. Nor does he declare whether he has any conflict of interest in his support for BANT.

May I point out that he has misquoted me, I did not say that nutritional therapy was snake oil. I said that iridology was snake oil, and the evidence for that is overwhelming, Since the chairperson of BANT sells iridology to the public for cash, she would not be a suitable person to judge the truth or falsehood of anything,

The most noticeable thing about Richard’s long post is that it fails to address any of the evidence. He doesn’t tell us whether he believes in iridology and hair analysis. He doesn’t even mention the long list of trials that I produced which show lack of benefit of supplements. He avoids all the difficult questions and resorts to slurs and innuendo.

Richard effectively says that both Which? and the expert panel have lied about what was in the transcripts. As I have already said, I have asked Which? if they would be willing to reveal parts of the transcripts. We’ll see what they say. I imagine that it would be possible only with the permission of the therapist, and since, in one case, that might leave them open to prosecution under the Cancer Act (1939) I doubt that permission would be forthcoming. We’ll see.

In short, Richard shows no sign whatsoever of having any interest in evidence. And that, of course, is the heart of the problem. I have views because I have read the evidence, not because of bias. That isn’t arrogance. It’s just common sense.

 
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RICHARD

David

In reply to this:
“Like the other people who claim that the report was biassed, does not reveal his real name. Nor does he declare whether he has any conflict of interest in his support for BANT.”

I have no contact with BANT not have I anywhere stated that I support them. I have never used the services of a NT.

My concern is with the possibility that there has been some rather poor journalism by Which? whose work in general I support and subscribe to. I fear they have wandered into an area without properly researching or understanding the facts – I do not pretend to know the facts fully myself. Their employment of you, David, as an ‘expert’ has intensified that fear.

In reply to this:
“May I point out that he has misquoted me, I did not say that nutritional therapy was snake oil. I said that iridology was snake oil, and the evidence for that is overwhelming, Since the chairperson of BANT sells iridology to the public for cash, she would not be a suitable person to judge the truth or falsehood of anything”

I am grateful to Maria for introducing me to the term “ad hominem” – which, having now done my research, I know to be short for “argumentum ad hominem” or “the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument”. It is true that you did not directly say “nutritional therapy was snake oil” but your intention to smear by association was clear. A classic case of argumentum ad hominem if I’m not mistaken.

In reply to:
“Richard effectively says that both Which? and the expert panel have lied about what was in the transcripts.”
Wrong. I have not said that nor do I wish to infer it. Please retract.

In reply to:
“In short, Richard shows no sign whatsoever of having any interest in evidence.”
Of course I have interest in the evidence. Please accept the advice I gave you to start learning some humility instead of assuming everyone you address is of limited intelligence.

As a note to the Which? team, whose views are important to me, I have to agree on all the evidence so far with this comment from Simon Rogers:
“This just appears to be an attempt to entrap NTs rather than test whether what they suggested actually works.”

 

Hello Richard, the comments you have made above are very personal about another commenter and could be interpreted as defamatory. We have made some brief edits to your comment to address this.

Normally we would take comments like the one posted on 22 January 2012 at 9:18pm down, but since these comments were made on the weekend and have already had replies we have decided to keep it up. Please read our commenting guidelines and make sure that your future comments are about the topic at hand and not individuals. Thanks, Patrick.

 
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Elizabeth

Indeed Professor Colquhoun has read many reports.
I have just looked at one of the cases that he listed earlier: Vitamin E and Selenium failed to prevent prostate cancer.
I think good nutritionists would not have conducted that study without adding vitamin C (which would help the other supplements to work)- this may well have produced a very different outcome.
What does this say about the preparedness of the professor to judge this study?
In other words, we need to know something else perhaps before we take these studies at face value, as perhaps he does?
I always thought that good science needs an open mind.

 
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Alan Henness

Elizabeth said:

“I have just looked at one of the cases that he listed earlier: Vitamin E and Selenium failed to prevent prostate cancer.
I think good nutritionists would not have conducted that study without adding vitamin C (which would help the other supplements to work)- this may well have produced a very different outcome.”

That’s a moot point, isn’t it? If you think that ‘good’ nutritionists would have included Vit C along with E and selenium, can you tell us if any ‘good’ nutritionist has actually conducted that research? If not, why not?

And if they haven’t, what makes you believe it may have produced a very different outcome?

 
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Elizabeth

The point I was making was that we have to be prepared in ways that perhaps we are not yet aware of
before we ridicule the views of others. That is, have an open mind.
Can you tell us if a “good” academic has an open mind or not?
In my experience, academics are as critical of each other as anyone.

 
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Alan Henness

Elizabeth said:

“The point I was making was that we have to be prepared in ways that perhaps we are not yet aware of
before we ridicule the views of others. That is, have an open mind.”

No, you said something about how ‘good’ nutritionists would have conducted a trial and you haven’t answered my question about whether any nutritionist has actually done it.

Can you suggest any ways that we are not yet aware of that we might prepare for?

However, if you are trying to argue – and please tell me if I am wrong – that iridology or hair mineral anaylsis might work in some way that we don’t yet know, then you’re jumping ahead: since there is no good evidence that either of these do, actually, work, there’s little point in trying to explain *how* they work.

Anyway, the way to stop me ridiculing anyone’s views (though I’m not sure I’ve done that – I have simply and continually asked for evidence, rather than opinion), is to provide the robust evidence for what you believe.

“Can you tell us if a “good” academic has an open mind or not?
In my experience, academics are as critical of each other as anyone.”

Emmm…that’s the way science works. Someone proposes something; others try to find flaws in it. If they find flaws, they look for something better. If it can’t be knocked down, then it becomes the best current explanation – until someone comes up with something even better, that is. In this way, knowledge progresses.

 
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chrisb

Alan,
the quote I gave from Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. was used to highlight the constant bashing of Alternative Medicine by the orthodox Medical establishment as being unjustified.

“So what has that got to do with whether nutritionists use unproven or disproven tests and give misleading or dangerous advice”?

I’ll tell you.
There is a good deal of criticism and scare-mongering of alternative therapies by orthodoxy, and this thread with its subject matter goes to prove that point, but there should be a balance to the equation re’ quackery within established medical ranks and beliefs, which is largely if not completely ignored by the media.
Orthodox Medicine should (but don’t) examine their own in-house quackery, and where (for example) the largest scale medical fraud ever is with prescribing Statin drugs: these reap billions of $$$ for the drug cartel annually.

A critical review of thirteen clinical trials, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals some startling facts about statins:

Statin drugs save zero lives.
Statins are utterly useless as prevention.
Even in people with high cholesterol, statins don’t reduce the risk of death one iota.
There has never been a single study that demonstrated statins extend life for women.

The great cholesterol con.
http://www.spacedoc.com/great_cholesterol_con

AND……
The Professor of Pharmacology here, David Colquhoun claimed that Omega 3 essential fatty acids have no benefit in heart or cardiovascular health, so I suggest he reads this to obtain the real facts.
http://www.spacedoc.com/aging_omega3

So when anyone criticizes and publishes data on quackery within alternative circles, then that should be counterbalanced with publicity of Mainstream quackery, in order that we can arrive at an informed choice as to which healthcare/treatment is best for us personally.

 
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Alan Henness

chrisb said:

“the quote I gave from Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. was used to highlight the constant bashing of Alternative Medicine by the orthodox Medical establishment as being unjustified.”

I don’t see how a report on a small study done 50 years ago about the prescribing practices of some GPs highlights the ‘constant bashing of Alternative Medicine by the orthodox Medical establishment as being unjustified’. This is, however, irrelevant.

“There is a good deal of criticism and scare-mongering of alternative therapies by orthodoxy, and this thread with its subject matter goes to prove that point, but there should be a balance to the equation re’ quackery within established medical ranks and beliefs, which is largely if not completely ignored by the media.
Orthodox Medicine should (but don’t) examine their own in-house quackery, and where (for example) the largest scale medical fraud ever is with prescribing Statin drugs: these reap billions of $$$ for the drug cartel annually.”

If Which? were to write a report into ‘conventional’ (ie generally evidence or science-based medicine), then we could discuss the evils of Big Pharma – and there certainly are some.

But, in raising the subject, you seem to be suggesting that just because there might be some quackery (or at least some interventions that are not based in robust evidence) in conventional medicine, that it’s OK for nutritionists to give misleading and dangerous advice and use unproven diagnostic tests?

Any claims of quackery of nutritionists could be balanced by providing robust evidence that it is not quackery, not by pointing to quackery elsewhere.

 
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jamesy

agreed on more than one of these points Richard hope others have the sense to do the same

 
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nobbyuk

why does BANT not produce its code of ethics on its website?

apparently according to their recent response to this artcle it outlines that “Were a client to be advised in such a way we would expect to receive a complaint against the practitioner”. how do we know what the ethical guidelines are and what the clients responsibilties are if it is hidden from the public? all we have is an old copy to go on.

surely that is another serious failing in terms of consumers rights of the nutritional therapy industry that is covered by BANT.

 
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david colquhoun

nobbyuk
You make an important point. Every such organisation publishes its code of practice, and it is very odd that BANT does not. If and when it reappears, It will be interesting to compare it with the older version.

I presume that many of the critics of the Which? report who have made comments here are themselves nutritional therapists, and perhaps BANT members. Hardly any of them has declared their conflicts of interest. And most of them have shown not the slightest interest in what the evidence shows. It’s natural that they should feel angry at being caught red-handed, but the net effect of their protestations is to confirm that there are real problems in the nutritional therapy industry.

The right reaction would have been to think about what should be done about bad advice. All we have seen is defence of the indefensible and accusations that Which? and the panel lied.

 
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wavechange

BANT claims, on its website, to update its Code of Professional Practice every three years, and if the current Code is on its website it is well hidden. It would be good for a BANT member to say whether the Code is in the members’ handbook.

Perhaps more BANT members could give their views of the effectiveness of BANT, taking advantage of the fact that contributors can be anonymous and – as Patrick has reminded us recently – this is recommended.

 
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Alan Hennsss

nobbyuk said:

“why does BANT not produce its code of ethics on its website?”

Quite.

How is anyone to know what standards of ethics and practice BANT members are held to? How does a member of the public know what to expect of a BANT member?

We’re being asked to trust BANT (an (until now) unknown trade body one of whose aims is “to promote and safeguard members’ interests”) while many here demand that Which? (a well-respected consumer rights organisation) be completely transparent and publish the transcripts.

Double standards?

 
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Elizabeth

Alan,
I did not say that “good nutritionists would have conducted a trial..” I said that” good nutritionists would not have conducted” that trial.
By” nutritionists” I mean people who are in a position to conduct trials following that interest; nutritional therapists are far from being in a position to conduct trials – if they have a good training, it is based on the scientific research carried out in establishments which are equipped for that.
There have been many scientific studies published – far too many to list here.
You will find a fair list in the “References” at the back of “Food is better medicine than drugs” by P Holford and J Burn (2006)
A fundamental read also would be “Living Proof – A medical mutiny” by Michael Gearin-Tosh – a book which I would recommend to anyone to open their eyes to possibilities and inadequacies.
(In later editions there are included some significant comments from Medical practitioners of some note).

 
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Alan Hennsss

Elizabeth

I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make here. There will be some nutritionists who give advice to customers, others who teach it and others who conduct research, possibly with some overlap between the groups. But all are capable of conducting research in cooperation with each other. Can you tell me what research is being done in the UK by the places where BANT’s members are taught?

Specifically, what scientific research has been carried out on iridology and hair mineral analysis? Are they based on scientific research (please cite) or are nutritionists just being told that they are by their teachers?

 
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Cybele

I too am reconsidering my membership with Which? It seems a popular sport nowadays to be bashing alternative medicine and I do not wish to be contributing in any way. There is such an imbalance between conventional medicine and alternative medicine, and I felt that this article from the setup decided what the outcome would be. Are we witch hunting again??

I’m personally sceptical to some methods, on the other hand I have been greatly helped my going to a nutrionalist who cured my endometriosis in less than 4 weeks, where my specialist at the hospital could only offer me to fake menopause for 6 months to starve it off. When my children have food sensitivites, the GP can only tell me to find them out by trial and error, my nutritionalist gives me a list with what she has found and symptoms are reduced immediately.

The results my nutrionist gets from her “whacky” machine, could easily be correlated by blood test for IGG, etc – but since there is no money in recommending people to eat more carrots and avoid wheat and sugar, there is little money to fund research into alternative medicine.

On the other hand there’s the sugar lobby who are so powerful they managed to avoid having a maximum recommended daily limit imposed on sugar consumption and the pharmaceutical industry whose idea of a perfect drug is something that avoids curing you, so you have to keep taking it for the rest of your life. Money talks!

 
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Maria

Cybele

Which? say they investigated nutritional therapists in 2000 and the findings then were cause for concern. Do you not think it reasonable for them to look at the industry again eleven years later to see if anything had changed? Why would you call this a “sport” or a “witch-hunt”? Seriously, I am mystified at your attitude. If there is an indication that that a significant proportion of people styling themselves as nutritionists are giving bad advice, don’t you think we should be told?

 

Thank you for all of your comments. Although many of you have asked to see transcripts Which? will not be posting them online or making them available for public viewing. We do this to protect the identity of all involved – our researchers and the therapists involved.
We have shared the transcripts with BANT and are speaking to them directly about our concerns.

Our research was conducted to assess the quality of advice given but also to determine whether nutritional therapists were practising within the BANT Code of Practice. The therapists who diagnosed conditions weren’t.

We were also concerned by the advice of one therapist to a researcher to not persue cancer treatment and the use of non-evidence based testing such as hair mineral analysis, iridology and other methods to diagnose conditions or recommend treatment plans.

Which? is confident in the research that was carried out and in the manner that it was reported.

 
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Simon Rogers

Then there is simply no way of us telling how accurate this report is. Either Which? or BANT are misrepresenting the transcripts. Their words and your are just not compatible.

For example, there is a difference between an NT recommending that a person see their GP, then the researcher attempting to entrap the NT by saying they don’t want to or are changing GPs, and the NT just not recommending it.

BANT say
“The transcripts clearly document that the client stated either they were not willing for their GP to be contacted or that they were disinclined to give details as they were either in the process of changing their GP, or were considering doing so and were not keen for this action to occur.”

So is this the case? Or did NTs just not mention or suggest going to GPs (a reasonable definition of “dangerous fail”)?

BANT also say:
“We have looked carefully at the transcripts provided by WHICH?, alleging that a practitioner recommends a client refrain from pursuing cancer treatment for a period of time rather just follow a change in diet. Whilst the information could have been better presented we have found no evidence in the transcripts that the practitioner directly made this recommendation, and are thus unable to agree with this finding. The practitioner made it quite clear that the client’s oncologist must be involved and that the client should refer the suggestions to them to seek their opinion and agreement.”

Now is this true or not?

To be clear – I think iridology is a lot of bunk, that megadoses of vitamins and supplements are not well supported by evidence (though there is some). There is evidence that certain brands of vitamins are better absorbed than others. I respect the panellists views and probably agree with them in most cases, and I understand that “neutral” in a scientific context is not the same “gibing both sides equal plausibility”

That said, this report is really a very poor piece of journalism. You should certainly have included at least one NT on the panel, and presented a much more detailed examination of the evidence. This just appears to be an attempt to entrap NTs rather than test whether what they suggested actually works.

 

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