/ Health

Had dodgy advice from a nutritional therapist? We have!

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.

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?


Food for thought:
I never take salt in anything, there must be plenty of salt in food that I buy,
I never add salt to cooking,
I only drink de caff tea,
I never ever drink coffee,
I never drink alcohol, although sometimes a glass of Red Wine,
I never take sugar,
I eat porridge for breakfast every morning,
I take one ‘Cod Liver Oil’ tablet every lunchtime,
I eat loads of greens,
I eat loads of bananas and other fruit.
I am an Ex Royal Marine (Pride of the Queen)
I ‘vote’ Conservative.

Sarah says:
20 January 2012

Are you single 😉

I am not a nutritional therapist but I’m sure that Ray’s diet could cause depression. 🙂

John Lyons says:
20 January 2012

I hate to break this to you, Raymond, but red wine is alcohol. If you “sometimes” drink it, then the claim that you “never” drink alcohol is incorrect.

Simon Rogers says:
20 January 2012

It’s very poor practise to release conclusions without evidence. BANT do not agree with your interpretation of the transcripts. I would like to see them. Make the data available on line, then we can judge.

Simon Rogers says:
20 January 2012

Another piece of evidence would be to find out what would happen if the researchers followed the NTs advice, subject to medical supervision. Does there advice do any good?

Claire says:
20 January 2012

David based on your response below to Sheila’s comment are you admittting here to having a bias against Nutritional Therapists because that’s how it sounds? Given this kind of bias do you think in any democratic society that it is appropriate for you and Catherine to be judge and jury in evaluating these transcripts and giving an objective opinion?

As humans we tend ‘find’ what we’re looking for so naturally you and Catherine will be looking for evidence of something to label as ‘dangerous’ in the transcripts. However it does seem that BANT do not agree with you perceptions.

Of course nobody wants to see ‘bad’ or ‘dangerous’ advice being given but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus of opinion between the Which panel and BANT that the advice was ‘bad’ and ‘dangerous’.

It would have been sensible for you to have sat around a table with BANT having given everyone the same length of time to review the transcripts and evalauted them together. BANT may indeed have a positive bias but between you, you could have produced a balanced and useful report.

BANT were asked for a rushed comment it appears to a set of ‘based’ foregone conclusions (they have provided the dates earlier and it seems they were given the report just before Christmas and the transcripts on 19th Dec with publication on 22nd Dec) on transcripts that the panel had received and already concluded on months before. Were you asked for your perspective in such a rushed manner?

The only conclusion I can draw is that this is a report based on the views of 2 people who are known to be negatively biased towards nutritional therapy. It would be good to have an objective, balanced report but unfortunately that isn’t what’s on offer here from Which!

You complain that Catherine Collins’ views about nutritional therapists are not neutral, and the same complaint has been levelled against me.

There is some truth in that, but the reason is that we have both been into the question before this study. Some of the materials that I unearthed that are taught to students are little more than myth or make-believe, so of course I’m not neutral.

Nevertheless, my job in this case was to read through the transcripts. I’d have been delighted if it had turned out that the advice given to patients in real life was better than one might have guessed from what they are taught on some courses. Sadly, that is not how it turned out.

nobbyuk says:
21 January 2012

i think you have made a great point there claire but in the wrong direction because it is about protecting consumers and not the industry: Every consumer that visits a nutritional therapy should record it and provide a transcripit then sit round a table with BANT and evaluate it before following any advice. Obviously as you suggest this is the best way to evaluate any advice given by nutritional therapists before acting upon that advice. That way we can ensure as consumers we are getting value for money and our health is not put at risk by bad or dangerous advice.

Nicola says:
20 January 2012

All I can say is shame on you Which? I won’t be buying your publication again – I’ve never read a more biased article and it makes me question all your previous research and articles…..

ente1 says:
20 January 2012

I feel the same Nicola – won’t be looking to Which again for unbiased advice.

Angela says:
20 January 2012

Absolutely, neither will I. I used to subscribe to the magazine, but in the light of such poor journalism, if you can call it that, I’ll be steering clear.

Karen says:
20 January 2012

I too would like to see the transcripts of the conversations as they seem very extreme to me. It also seems quite suspicious that there’s on the panel of judges is a dietition and a ‘useful’ link undeath these comments to find a registered dietition – much like a witch hunt after Nutritional Therapists. I have no faith in the credibility of Which? now.

Elizabeth says:
20 January 2012

It should be obvious to everyone now from all this that Dieticians have a different set of understandings to Nutritional Therapists.
One outstanding difference seems to be that NTs do not recommend doughnuts, crisps or bacon as therapy.
Our own experience has added Mars bars to this list.
It seems a great shame that so far only dieticians seem to be allowed to help the NHS.

Elizabeth says:
20 January 2012

PS. Allowed only unofficially, it seems, if the GP is willing.
It was interesting and maybe relevant here that bacon is one of the prepared meats in a list announced only a few weeks ago as part of a risk for causing pancreatic cancer.

nobbyuk says:
21 January 2012

one outstanding difference is that NT’s and their followers seem to rely heavily on ancedotes to make a point.

i know someone who was recommended doughnuts, crisps, bacon, mars bar and 6oz of lard by an NT…..thanks for playing anecdotal top trumps.

NT from Bromley says:
20 January 2012

I am a Nutritional Therapist and I take my clients’ health concerns very seriously. I never advise against going to see a doctor, in fact I positively urge clients to make that contact additionally. I do not offer testing and suggest blood tests are obtained via GP referral making sure potential conditions are diagnosed first. It is essential to work with the NHS for the benefit of the client. I am able to support the client in the areas of dietary and lifestyle choices where I feel perhaps their doctor or the NHS may have failed to provide reassurance and practical advice. It is not I who criticizes dietitians or our health service, it is all too often the client, who as a result is looking for more personal and in depth advice.
Nutritional Therapists do a good job if they have been trained well. Accreditation is essential, but still being sought. It is essential NT’s have a protected title My advise would be to find an NT on recommendation.

Bias is not quite the right word, I had formed some views based on evidence. Perhaps you should look at the evidence, e.g http://www.dcscience.net/?p=260 and http://www.dcscience.net/?p=259

Are you prepared to defend what was being taught on those courses?

In this case, though, I repeat, all I did was to read the transcripts and report on what they said. It is unreasonable to say that we were lying when we said that some of the therapists used methods like iridology. Many say openly on their web sites that they use it.

On page 3 of the comments, I asked whether any of the nutritional therapists posting hear was prepared to defend the use of iridology as a method of diagnosis. All I got in response was a couple of half-hearted disavowals, If anyone is prepared to defend it, please come forward.(this is a separate question from pointing out that, according to BANT’s code of practice, NTs should not diagnosing anyway).

If the more sensible NTs realise that there really is a problem with methods like iridology, that raises another problem. The chairperson of BANT, Catherine Honeywell, uses iridology in her own practice, http://www.nutrimental.co.uk/iridology.html The justification given on that page is pretty bizarre. Is it or is it not a method of diagnosis? In these circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that BANT failed to condemn the use of iridology, That is one reason for not taking seriously their allegations of bias. Another reason is that BANT considers it quite ethical to take kickbacks from pill manufacturers for prescribing their products.

Please remember that the “supplement” industry is a huge commercial concern, Indeed some of it is owned by Big Pharma, which rather like the idea that you can sell pills without having to produce any evidence that they work,

I imagine that much of the outcry in these comments comes from Nutritional therapists themselves. They see any criticism as potentially reducing their income, so naturally enough they object. I believe that is the wrong reaction. What would help nutritional therapy would be to admit there are problems, and to renounce nonsense like iridology, and to clean up their act. If they continue to insist that nothing is wrong, despite the evidence to the contrary, it is they, not I, who are signing their own death warrants.

Claire says:
20 January 2012

Thanks for your reply. You raise many interesting points of debate and the strength of your opinion is vociferous. My point is that the panel of people evaluating these transcripts should have been a balanced one and it wasn’t. Every comment that you have made here backs up your opinion of Nutritional Therapy, to which you are of course entitled.

However from Which I want to see a balance of opinion and that wasn’t the case in the report, it is flavoured with a tone remarkably similar to the one that you have used above which comes across as quite highly charged actually.

You asked if I’m prepared to defend what is taught on courses. You see that is exactly the kind of question you could have put to Catherine Honeywell had the panel included her and some other Directors of BANT before the report was written.

So, no problem with having a strong opinion about a subject but it does make for a very one-sided view of a situation. Many people here are complaining about the lack of balance in the report because it is to find objective, balanced and useful information that they, like myself subscribe to Which.

Elizabeth says:
20 January 2012

Iridology should not be confused with diagnosis of illness. Any practitioner needs a good training to be effective.
It can be a surprisingly useful tool – but it should not be confused with hard evidence.
I have seen people being utterly amazed as they have past and existing weaknesses identified, without any previous questioning or testing.
It is a great pity that it can be misrepresented, as, if doctors could recognise it and be well trained, (on top of everything else!) it would save a lot of time in targeting tests for real evidence.

Irina says:
20 January 2012

Dear David, thank you for your replay. May I comment on it from a point of view of an ordinary member of the public and as a concerned mother.
1. I know nothing about iridology, can’t comment on it.
2. At least now I know that there are some quackery in pharmacology (or, may be they are pharmacologists with different point of view ?);
3. The precise point of my appeal to you was : if ordinary people read the report in interpretation of Which, the message they are getting is : eat whatever you want, don’t believe these quakers, be sure, when you got a cancer, you will be given a treatment. The thing is I don’t want to get to the point, where my children will be TREATED! I want THEY WILL NEVER HAVE IT.
And this is the point where my interests (as a member of the public) and the interests of the pharmacology (and SOME doctors and dieticians) went apart. Sugar industry and health care go side by side: one side creates cases, another- treats. No surprise there is no place in this duet for NTs.


I’m afraid there is total unanimity, apart from some (not all) alternative medicine enthusiasts that iridology no more than superstitious bunk. I have challenged people here to produce any evidence at all that it works, and they have not. Likewise hair analysis has been debunked time and time again. This, I imagine, is why it would not be sensible to have someone like the chairperson of BANT on the panel. The idea was to assess the performance as best we could against the current state of knowledge. Anyone who sells iridology to the public disqualifies themselves from taking part in any rational discussion.

I can’t agree that the message of the article is “eat anything you want”. Quite on the contrary we are bombarded with advice about sensible eating from dozens of sources. many of them very sensible.

It’s important to realise that nutritional therapists are only one small part of the body of people who investigate nutrition. In fact they are not the people who do research in the area at all, and many of them (not all) believe in nonsensical stuff like iridology and hair analysis.

My advice would be to listen to people who haven’t got a vested interest in selling you vitamin pills. It has benn shown time and time again that vitamin pills do you know good and may in large doses, do harm.

Unlike the nutritional therapists who have objected so strenuously to the report. I have no financial interest in any particular outcome. I would dearly love it if you could cure cancer by changing your diet. Sadly, you can’t and anyone who tells you to delay treatment to try it, might, in a bad case, be open to charges of culpable homicide.


You say “At least now I know that there are some quackery in pharmacology”, I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that, but it’s worth replying.

I don’t think you will find any quackery among academic pharmacologists but it is undoubtedly true that some big drug companies have behaved very badly indeed. A good example is the case of the SSRI anti-depressants. The fact that GSK was caught out concealing a lot of negative trials was unforgivable. Someone should face criminal charges for that. When all the data were revealed, it turns out that SSRIs barely work at all for mild/moderate depression. Incidentally, I can’t resist pointing out that the proud boast of herbalists has always been that St John’s Wort works as well as SSRIs, It seems. then, that neither work. I should also point out that there is no dietary intervention that is know to work either.

I would point out though, that this bad behaviour was revealed by the hard work of conventional scientists and doctors, not by the alternative medicine industry.

I fear that, in this wicked world, large companies often behave in a way that can only be called dishonest, to maximise their profits.

It must also be said that the alternative medicine and supplement industries are enormous businesses, and they are very bit as ruthless as Big Pharma. In fact many of the supplement manufactures are actually owned by Big Pharma. It appeals to their less honest side that there is no requirement that you show a supplement has any benefit before you market it. As I have said several times already, huge trails have shown again and again that taking vitamin pills does not have the slightest benefit (in this country, where hardly anyone is deficient)., In fact there is some reason to think that in the large doses preferred by some vitamin-pusher, they may actually harm you.

I really enjoy my food, and there are loads and loads of choices.

Patrick says:
20 January 2012

What an appalling, biased and badly constructed article! I am incredulous that you (Which?) allowed it to be published.

What a strange, ill-suited choice of panelists. I am neither a Nutritionist nor a Dietitian, but I can see that you shouldn’t have one judging the other! Most GPs that I have ever visited simply prescribe antibiotics or nurofen (or both) without ever looking at root causes. Will you have an article about the ineffectiveness of all GPs?

I have visited a nutritionist for my daughter’s excema when I became wary of my GP’s constant advice to use hydrocortisone cream. They listened intently and didn’t prescribe any expensive pills, but simply to rotate the diet of my daugher, avoiding prolonged periods eating wheat or dairy or sugar etc. The excema cleared up very quickly and seldom returns. Incidentally, I visited THREE different dieticians and didn’t receive the same level of understanding, care or advice!

You simply cannot base such a derogatory report on so small a group. As someone says earlier – “Shame on you Which?” – I suggest you withdraw the article until you can produce a more relevant, factual and objective article.

Sania says:
20 January 2012

I laughed when I read the Which? report as some aspects are clearly sensationalised and some are clearly ridiculous. What does this comment mean exactly??

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

Do the panelists not know that there is a rationale behind using a restricted diet, that it is not forever and that it is not recommended for the fun of it? Do they also not know that a NT would look at a food and symptom diary and that if there appears to be a correlation between a food such as wheat and a symptom such as bloating, then an obvious way to see if wheat is the cuprit is to eliminate it for a short period of time? Do they not realise that we would not eliminate food groups without discussing and recommending replacement foods? And do they not know that for the most part, with supplements as with most other things, you pay for what you get. Quality and therefore expensive supplements do not contain as many fillers and bulking agents and are often of a more bioavailable form. I have even had GPs telling my patients to buy their own iron supplements as those available on the NHS are of a poor quality and constipating. Maybe if there had been a NT on the panel of ‘NT experts’ such a ridiculous sentence would not have been used. As for the claims that NT is unscientific, well my ‘unscientific’ training would never have allowed me to pick on the fact that the ‘evidence’ presented by Which? is hardly robust .. A whole profession has been rubbished based on a very small trial (15 consultations – significant?), a clearly biased panel who are threatened by NT and the fact that it is removing focus from dieticians, and a suspect method of collecting data with fabricating cases and withholding information about GPs details? Is this ethical? Thankfully I am not so shoddy with the research I conduct for my patients – and all for the bargain price for £85. I believe they agree, which is why many come back and thank me.

I can assure you that I don’t feel in the least threatened by NTs

The allegation of fabrication is simply defamatory and you haven’t the slightest reason to think that anything was fabricated.

A s for restricted diets, please show us the evidence than they do any good (except of course in genuine cases of gluten sensitivity). One problem is that, bu insisting on using methods of diagnosis that are known to be unreliable, you put many people om miserable diets which produce no benefit whatsoever (but do maximise the number of pills that you can sell).

As for the small sample size, I gave the relevant statistical calculations earlier in the discussion You can see them also at http://www.dcscience.net/?p=4997#170112 which might be easier to find. if you disagree with my mathematics, please show us your own calculations.

Sania says:
20 January 2012

Oh and I must also comment on the PR brilliance of Catherine Collins. How does a person known for their anti-NT views manage to get onto the panel of experts for a NT review?!

As invited, I looked up and find David Colquhoun
is a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society: FRS

Thank you ArgonautoftheSeas, for finding out who I am. it isn’t very difficult. I don’t much like arguments from authority though, so initials -even FRS – are not really relevant. I’d rather be judged by the quality of my arguments. I’m doing my best to be calm and reasonable in the face of some fairly vitriolic abuse.

Monika says:
20 January 2012

David – as FRS you are in a much stronger position currently than any of us may ever be to influence positive changes in the way chronic disease is tackled in this country. I am sure you have a lot on your plate but can you use your respected position to recommend more research into the connections between nutrition and preventive health? Despite some great scientific advances being made –levels of obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. continue to rocket. Diet is known to be a significant contributing factor in many cases. By 2020, according to WHO, these diseases will be the leading cause of disability and if not successfully managed will be the most expensive problem for the NHS (1) Cancer is projected to increase by 45% in the next 20yrs (2). Some solid evidence is already out there – many of us have spent years looking at the research papers. The dietary advice may be out there indeed (some of it better than others) but evidently it’s not getting through and it’s not working. Could it possibly be that some people need to be helped, supported and informed to make the necessary changes in their lives?

Also, your earlier suggestion that NTs are responding to this report primarily for their own financial security is insulting and unbecoming of your esteemed standing. Some of us actually give a damn.

(1) http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4075214
(2) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15480754

Very clever “Which” for using three “experts” who know next to nothing about Nutrition. A dietician may know the basics, but a GP and Professor of Pharmacology are essentially ignorant as to what nutrition is and how it functions. GP’s receive next to nothing training and education in nutrition, and Pharmacologists are only concerned with the actions of drugs in the human organism. I have some news for the latter: nutrients are not drugs, and have a totally different biological action in empathy with the body and where drugs act as poisons which only mask symptoms and fail to address the true cause of most all maladies/illnesses/diseases.
Nutrition is healthcare related, where drugs are disease-care orientated.

That’s hardly news!
In fact there is no clear line between drugs and herbs and nutrients. Many drugs that have been found useful were first found in plants. for example digitalis from foxgloves and curare. It’s also true that many plants are quite toxic. After all plants evolved to kill predators, not to cure them. Nutrients are just chemicals as drugs are. I’m sorry to say that they act “in empathy with the body” is pure hokum. A molecule can’t have empathy, you need a brain for that. Surely it is well known that anything in sufficient dose is a poison.

PollyB says:
21 January 2012

I assure you that dietitians don’t just know the basics! They spend 4 years at university learning biochemistry, immunology, food science, NUTRITION, public health nutrition, metabolism, epidemiology, evidence based practice, dietetics, physiology and pathophysiology (to same level as trainee doctors), pharmacology etc…
The biochemistry and metabolism of all nutrients (in both healthy and sick patients) is obviously an underpinning element of the entire course. This is hardly “knowing next to nothing about nutrition” – a dietitian is able to work as (and call him/herself) a nutritionist should they wish to since they are effectively qualified as nutritionists.

Simon Rogers says:
20 January 2012

Please address my request to make the transcripts public. BANT have seen them, so it’s not a privacy issues.

The transcripts belong to Which? so that question must be addressed to them. It took me well over 4 days to read them, so good luck. I suspect that it would not be hard to identify the therapists even with names removed, so i suspect all but one of the therapists themselves would not be at all pleased to see their conversations revealed, That’s a question for them.

Simon Rogers says:
20 January 2012

Thank you so much for answering – I thought I was addressing BANT. I’m not necessarily disgreeing with the report, but when BANT says this:

“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.”

it’s very hard to tell who’s right without seeing the data. It’s certainly poor practice of Which? not to make it available.

As to your comments on deficiency
“I have said several times already, huge trails have shown again and again that taking vitamin pills does not have the slightest benefit (in this country, where hardly anyone is deficient). ”

I have to disagree. There is strong evidence that there are deficiencies – even in Western countries.There is a good reason that we fortify food, and more recently, Scotland medical officer called for Vitamin D supplementation based on evidence from Professor of clinical neurology George Ebers, that the deficiency is increasing the rate of MS. There are many other examples.

Simon Rogers says:
20 January 2012

Sorry – I mean “I thought I was addressing Which?”

Chazza says:
20 January 2012

Yes please do this

The Wikipedia article on iridology looks fair to me, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iridology

“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.”

It seems odd to suggest that a BANT person should be on the panel when they sell to the public, for hard cash. a method like that.

I am afraid you have only revealed your ignorance of the taking of vitamin pills which you say does not have the slightest benefit. I suggest you read and research the truth of the matter as in the peer-reviewed Journal Of Orthomolecular Medicine: http://www.orthomed.org/ whose effective application of nutritional scientific research over the last few decades, has been censored and suppressed and esp’ online within Pubmed and probably the reason you have made the comments that you have.
Another example would be the Global epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency, which at optimum doses not obtainable through diet, reduces the the risk of cancers by 77%. Please do your own research to establish this.
The problem with Mainstream thinking is that they are unable to see the wood for the trees, as they are indoctrinated from an early age into drug-therapy, and which, as you have mentioned in one of your own posts (SSRI’s) is largely wasteful and ineffective therapy. Nutrients, even synthetic ones, act synergistically at the cellular level. and are biologically compatible, whereas drugs are not so and where prescription drugs, taken as prescribed, kill over 106,000 people in the U.S alone annually.

David, your comment that: “there is no clear line between drugs and herbs and nutrients. Many drugs that have been found useful were first found in plants”…….is patently absurd. It is true of course that that many drugs have their origins from plants, but they are chemically altered to provide a patent, so that extortionate amounts of money can be made from their sale. Aspirin being a case in point which originates from white willow bark.
Indeed some plants are poisonous are are therefore inedible, but try eating as many apples as you like and the only side-effects will have are “the runs”.
Nutrients are essential to life and cannot be subjected to safety analyses like environmental toxins or synthetic drugs. Virtually all research published in mainstream journals is focused on how essential nutrients heal organisms on the cellular level, and which nutrients act together to bring about organ repair, and how they cause systemic healing when given in very high doses. Science has known for at least a century that deficiencies cause standard diseases. In the presence of certain viruses and environmental toxins, such deficiencies are major contributing factors to AIDS and all cancers. Indeed, the South Africans recently renamed AIDS to NAIDS which stands for “Nutritionally Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” because recent research showed that for the HIV virus to cause illness, a person must also be deficient in the immune-system-controlling mineral Selenium (Foster 2004).

Toxicity studies basically don’t exist for essential nutrients (one of a few is vitamin A under certain circumstances). To establish the “lethal dose 50”, half of a hundred lab rats or mice dies at a substance’s concentration which is then designated as the toxic level. Well, you can’t do that with Vitamin C or essential fatty acids, for example. They can’t kill. The body metabolizes these substances and excretes excesses. The occasional individual allergy to a specific type of vitamin does not invalidate general biocompatibility.

By contrast, all synthetic drugs (without exception) are systemically toxic, meaning they are toxic to more than one body system as well as on a cellular level . Hence the constant need to weigh the benefits of their use with the known risks of their toxicity, specific doses of just so many mg, timing of ingestion, duration of treatment – and the prescription requirement. All this doesn’t apply to apples, magnesium or probiotics. If you eat too many apples, you get the runs – same mess for too much vitamin C.
Furthermore, all drugs, from Aspirin to Zocor, also deplete essential nutrients, most of which accumulate in body tissues because they cannot be metabolized by our enzymes which freak out when encountering this phony chemistry and simply move on.
Used for a long time, drugs frequently shut down the body’s natural detoxification center, the liver, and in extreme cases destroy it – necessitating a liver transplant.
Of course, essential nutrients are readily metabolized and distributed in accordance with the laws of nature, while simultaneously nourishing the liver.
As an example I suggest you obtain and read a copy of “Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C” by Dr Steve Hickey PhD..http://www.doctoryourself.com/hickey.html

So to say that nutrients are just chemicals, as drugs are, is complete nonsense.
BTW, you might like to know that after the best medical care for over 16 months for peripheral neuropathy and intense back pain, accompanied by severe depression, I cured myself via nutrition: a wholesome diet and (more importantly and effectively) with high dose supplements of Vitamin D3 or cholcalciferol; B Complex 100 Vitamins; Omega 3 essential fatty acids combined with a sulphurated protein.