A short but holistic PhD

So Ben Goldacre reads Gillian McKeith’s PhD – all 49 stapled pages of it.

Inside is what I could only describe as Cargo Cult science: she’s going through the motions, but the content, only closer inspection, is like an eerie parody of an academic text. There are lots of grand statements about research, with nice superscript numbers relating to references in the back. But when you chase to the back of the book to see what these academic documents are, they include such august periodicals as Delicious, Creative Living, Healthy Eating, and my favourite: Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet…She expands grandly and uncritically – with anecdote, but no data – about her many dramatic treatment successes, like a physician from the dark ages. She talks about her own “clinical research”, with huge claims for its findings, but wherever this clinical research is, all you can find here are her anecdotes…Since people like me started digging, the McKeith industry – worth millions – describes her as a holistic nutritionist. There is no such thing as “holistic nutrition”: if you make statements about food and are backed up by academic/scientific research, as McKeith does, repeatedly, in her books, her shows, her semi-academic work, and products … then that’s just nutrition. The word “holistic” is at best a piece of branding; but at worst, it’s a cloak for accepting inadequate standards of referencing and evidence.

Ah yes…Did we remember to include ‘holistic’ in the Dictionary? What a silly question.

Everything good. Whole, pure, sincere, whole, integrated, spiritual, whole, centered.

And of course nutritionistic, and healthy, and natural, and (as an unexpected bonus) scholarly.

5 Responses to “A short but holistic PhD”