Broccoli for Brains

Last Friday, saw Trevor McDonut’s ‘Tonight with’ programme showcase Patrick Holford’s ‘Food for the Brain’ charity and its involvement with a school. The school apparently saw lots of improvements with their children and so will obviously boost the standing of the Food for the Brain charity.

And today, we see that Food for the Brain is starting to see itself as an accrediting authority now as it gives its first award to Ashridge Business School.

But regular quackometer visitors will know what I think about the science of Patrick Holford and some of his more worrying associations.

As for Food for the Brain, I have collated a number of specific concerns I have about the charity:

  • The ‘trials’ being undertaken are unscientific and produce ambiguous results.
  • There is an over-emphasis on giving and selling supplements to children, which is not justified by science.
  • The influence of the nutritional ideas of Patrick Holford’s Optimum Nutrition Programme may be disproportionately influencing thinking.
  • The charity use inaccurate techniques to determine the need for children to take mineral supplements.
  • There is inadequate regulation of the nutritional therapists in the UK.
  • The costs of taking the Food for the Brain’s approach of nutritional testing and taking supplements would be prohibitively expensive for most parents.
  • The charity recommends inaccurate techniques to look for ‘allergies and intolerances’ in children.
  • The charity has given out dangerous advice regarding autism and elimination diets.
  • Food for the Brain lists among its affiliations an American organization that holds strong anti-psychiatry views and has links with Scientology.

I have given a more detailed appraisal of these concerns and this can be found on HolfordWatch.


3 Comments on Broccoli for Brains

  1. It’s also a great concern how the key enthusers for Patricks promotions are the headteachers themselves, exhorting (or justifying?) the ‘benefits’ of spending £1000 from their school budget on this weird approach to nutrition.

    As a dietitian I would not expect to be considered a key opinion former on, say, the teaching methods used by my sons secondary school teachers on his educational experience. It worries me greatly that headteachers seem to consider themselves sufficiently qualified to reciprocate with their opinion on Broccoli-for-Brains apparent success – putting their own non-nutritional achievements that likely influenced educational performance into the shade, all to Patricks promotional benefit.

    But they’re unlikely to even see this post, given that Patrick spends so much on self-promotion, external PR and the grooming of the nutritionally gormless to pursue his evangelical Rathist cause and ruthlessly try to neutralise the true nutrition experts who justifiably query his trial-by-television messages.

    Don’t believe it? Only now, on Holfords round robin emails, does Patrick ‘attempt to do real science’, requesting ‘charidy’ monies from the gullible to ‘fund’ a ‘proper’ randomised trial in a school (but thanks, he’ll take the schools £1k as well, ta). But if Patricks approach to ‘doing’ research is typical of whats gone before, expect the worst kids to be assigned the ‘general group and the ‘clever’ ones to be assigned the fish oils etc etc…..

  2. Not being a great watcher of television I was sorry to find that the ‘Tonight With’ Link on Broccoli for Brains is no longer available.

    Without the advantage of having watched the program, I would say that Holford may be on the right track as to brain-protective qualities of broccoli as a study by Zhao et al found that sulforaphane, found in broccoli and (less so) in other cruciferae, reduced injury-related brain edema in rats.

    Ref: Broccoli and the Blood Brain Barrier
    Jing Zhao, Anthony N. Moore, John B. Redell, and Pramod K. Dash
    Journal of Neuroscience,Sept 2007

    Time will tell.

    I would, in any event, prefer (and expect where possible) head teachers to spend their school budget on encouraging children to eat foods such as brocolli with its established cancer-protective properties than to spend it on providing unhealthy non-nutritional food and fizzy drinks, which are contributing presently to child obesity which are scientifically proven to lead to chronic ill health such as diabetes and cardiac problems.

    A little extra of the school budget to go on children’s nutrition may sound unjustifiable to some, but is a very small cost compared to that of often long term treatment, for those illness that start by obesity.

    I know little of Patrick Holford, perhaps due to rarely watching television, but I can see a serious danger to the future health of children as regards obesity, cardiac disorders and diabetes when doctors, in attempting to discredit the ideas of one nutritionist (whether rightly or wrongly) use generalities to dismiss healthy eating.

    Above all, do no harm.

  3. Interesting read! I think the best way to start promoting healthy eating in children is removing sweets and sodas from schools! Five to ten (depending on if the children are eating both breakfast and lunch) are eaten at school every week. Children will hopefully pick up healthier eating habits this way for the rest of their lives, also! You can find some additional interesting reading over at the ” REL=”nofollow”>Dietary Supplement Information Bureau page on childhood obesity.

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