Nutrition therapists condemned as 'quacks' who put patients' health at risk
Nutrition therapists have been condemned as quacks and accused of putting the health of the sick – including those suffering from breast cancer – at risk.
An industry has grown up based on the concept that ‘food doctor’ nutritionists can cure patients’ ills and allergies through diet.
However at least some of the practitioners, who charge up to 80 for a consultation, are providing advice that could harm health, a study by the consumer watchdog Which found.
Healthy: But nutrition therapists' recommendations could be harming patients, an undercover investigation by Which has found
The group sent undercover researchers to pose as patients with a range of problems and visit 15 so-called nutritional therapists.
Which said: ‘They found shocking examples of advice which could have put patients with real health problems at risk.’
All but one of the 15 offered either potentially dangerous or misleading advice. Six of the consultations were rated as ‘dangerous fails’ in terms of misinformation and bad advice. A further eight were rated as ‘fails’, and just one a ‘borderline pass’.
Which is calling on the Government to regulate the sector which, like much of the cosmetic beauty and anti-ageing industry, has no effective policing regime.
It said: ‘One researcher, posing as a breast cancer sufferer, was told by her therapist to delay radiotherapy treatment recommended by her oncologist, saying they could rid the body of cancer through diet.
‘The therapist advised her to follow a no-sugar diet for three to six months saying, “Cancer feeds off sugar. /01/16/article-2087167-0D77E375000005DC-322_233x343.jpg” width=”233″ height=”343″ alt=”Irresponsible: One investigator who feigned cancer was told to cut out sugar, because 'cancer feeds off sugar'” class=”img-no-border” />
Irresponsible: One investigator who feigned cancer was told to cut out sugar, because 'cancer feeds off sugar'
Another researcher was told if the treatment prescribed for his severe tiredness started to make him feel unwell, it showed that it was working. The therapist advised him not to contact his GP as they ‘wouldn’t understand what was happening’.
Bizarre tests, including iridology, which involves examining patterns in the iris, and hair analysis were also used to ‘diagnose’ conditions.
A researcher who said she had been struggling to conceive was told after having her iris examined she had ‘bowel toxicity’ and a ‘leathery bowel’. Both are meaningless terms, the expert panel said.
Which found the therapists often used these tests as a part of a sales talk to market unnecessary supplements costing up to 70 a month. Very few of the 15 addressed issues that would have had a positive impact on health, such as reducing alcohol intake.
Prof Colquhoun said: ‘Nutritional therapy is plagued by ‘diagnostic tests’ that are little more than quackery. Iridology and hair analysis simply don’t work.’ Dr McCartney said: ‘If you have symptoms see your GP, not someone who can’t diagnose accurately.’
Which has decided not to name the therapists involved. However, it has reported its findings to the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy (BANT), where a number are registered.
BANT declined to comment.
The British Dietetic Association was keen to make clear its trained dietitians are very different from nutrition therapists such as those visited by Which BDA said: ‘Anybody can set up shop as a nutrition therapist, with no qualifications. Registered dieticians working in the UK are educated to degree level and must be registered with the Health Professions Council.’