Monday, November 27, 2006

Gillian McKeith and her PhD

Denzil Gunner of Atkins Solicitors in London wrote to me - "Dear Sir" - objecting to my post Bad Science on Gillian McKeith - pointing to (real Medical Doctor) Ben Goldacre's Bad Science post: The Awful Poo Lady.

I also wrote how little I thought of all nutritionists I have ever met (except for one) - "The sort of women who buy degrees by mail order, and then tell us that we are 'allergic' to foods, and need to buy their expensive supplements" - a theme I have covered many times before on this blog and in print. I also detailed the 'advice' that I had been given by a nutritionist - after no tests whatsoever and a very brief conversation "she diagnosed me as able to eat not much that she did not sell in a sachet or bottle. According to her, I'm apparently allergic to dairy, onions, aubergine, tomatoes, soya, porridge oats, wheat, gluten, meat, sugar, and a dozen other things I've consumed in the last 24 hours."

Atkins are very concerned that someone might misinterpret my comments as referring to Ms. McKeith, have accused me of defamation and threatened to take me to court - they also pointed out that they are taking The Sun to court for suggesting that Ms McKeith purchased her qualification. So I rang The Sun for a chat. There has been a recent case of someone trying (and failing) to sue a blogger - Neil Clark tried to sue Oliver Kamm - so I would like to be very clear on this issue, and have been ordered by Atkins to delete the original post (I have done so).

I would like to make it very clear that I was not referring to Ms. McKeith, but to another 'nutritionist' - and that when I wrote "two years" for her experience was a mistake on my part (for which I also apologise; but not to Ms. McKeith as I was not referring to her). I have always made it clear that although this blog is registered in the US, I would not wish to defame anyone and am always very happy to clarify. If anybody else has an issue with something I've written, please feel free to email me directly - I have removed everything I have been asked to so far, and you really don't need to waste your money getting a lawyer to send me a letter.

The 'consultation' I wrote about did not take place on British soil (Morocco), it did not involve McKeith or anyone linked with McKeith (to the best of my knowledge), nor did it involve any of McKeith's products (I have expressed my views many times on organic food and what I chose to put into my body). At no point did I state or suggest that McKeith was involved, as would have been clear to anyone who read the post. I have never read McKeith's books nor used her products, nor have I ever sought her advice either in person, in print or through television. Nor do I have any intention of ever doing do in the future. I only spoke to the other 'nutritionist' on holiday because my friends did, and I challenge any 'nutritionist' to significantly improve my diet. I am confused how McKeith thinks that any criticism of any other nutritionist - the one I refer to is American - impacts her, but I am more than delighted to clarify this minor issue.

I have never said nor knowingly implied that Gillian McKeith purchased her qualification, and was not aware that others had made this suggestion before today. In fact I knew nothing of McKeith's qualifications other than that she is clearly not a medical doctor, nor did I look up the source of her PhD before today. I am also not a medical doctor, and what little medical knowledge I've picked up over the years tends to be about HPV, cancer, AIDS, epidemiology, etc. I know nothing about weight-loss diets, which I understand is one area of her expertise. The only diet advice I tend to favour is the Royal Marsden Hospital's book on food to fight cancer. I will admit that before today I very foolishly based my opinion of McKeith on an episode of her TV show. I tend to be suspicious of people who recommend regular enemas, and non-medical people who make diagnoses based on looking at tongues. I give more credence to medical studies published by specialists in the Lancet than people on television, but would be delighted to read some serious research on these issues. Obviously McKeith's TV show is simply entertainment, and does not, I assume, claim to be giving medical advice.

To be entirely clear, this is all I know about McKeith's background, from her own web site: "She graduated from the University of Edinburgh and received her Masters Degree from the Ivy-League University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After a severe bout of personal ill health and recovery through nutritional medicine, she embarked upon a new path and changed her life. She then spent several years re-training for a Masters and doctorate (PhD) in Holistic Nutrition from the American Holistic College of Nutrition (USA). She holds Certificates from the London School of Acupuncture and the Kailash Centre of Oriental Medicine."

In those days the Government would have paid for her UK education. In the US everyone literally pays for their qualifications, but I understand that at that University of Pennsylvania one also has to work very hard for the qualification. I have no knowledge of the American Holistic College of Nutrition so I Googled it. It is now called Clayton College of Natural Health, and is fully "accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the American Naturopathic Medical Certification and Accreditation Board." (Not to be confused with Clayton State University, which is accredited by a different group - the US Dept. of Education). Although CCNH's web site makes it clear that learning is through a correspondence course (work is sent by mail) - "Self-paced, flexible; study from home, at work, or while you travel" - I am sure that one learns a great deal through this method, and that all qualifications from the College are earned based on merit.

I also know nothing about her products, and have never tried them, so I was basing my opinion of these particular products solely on what the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said about them. If you have not seen Ben's post, go look at it. And if you have seen it, then look again as there is now much more information the issue - a new development is that McKeith was quoting as blaming the problem on EU regulations in a newspaper: “It’s obvious that the EU bureaucrats are clearly concerned that people in the UK are having too much good sex.” There must have been a misunderstanding (on her web site too), to quote the brilliant Ben's post:

The [MHRA] press office were very helpful and told me: “This has nothing to do with new EU regulations.” And just to be absolutely clear: “They were never legal for sale in the UK.” They also point out that there’s no excuse for not knowing about the regulations, and that, rather helpfully (in case any of you are thinking of setting up in business) the MHRA’s Medicines Borderline Section offers free advice on the phone.

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