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An Interview with Patrick Holford

Good day and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview.

EB: For our readers who are not familiar with Patrick Holford as an author, can you tell us more about yourself?

PH: The Dalai Lama once said that every human being has two fundamental desires: to be happy and free of pain. I’m interested both in helping people (and myself) achieve these and also, in the process, finding out what our full potential is as human beings. In essence, there’s so much unconsciousness about how/what we eat and how we live which creates the problems that people face. I see so many sick and suffering people when I go on my lecture tours and, if I can help someone find their way back to a life worth living, that’s a good day’s work.

I work too hard, and, as a consequence, have had to learn how to stay healthy when the pressure is on. I’m not perfect but I’ve learnt a few things that are relatively easy for all of us to do. For example, I do Psychocalisthenics, a 16 minute exercise system probably every other day.

EB: You graduated with a BSc in Experimental Psychology from the University of York in 1979, what prompted your venture into the world of nutrition?

PH: We did a lot of study on how the brain works and, through my interest in schizophrenia I came across the extraordinary results achieved, and published, using high doses of B vitamins. It prompted me to study the effects of nutrition on brain function and that’s what got me started. Later I became involved in research on the effects of multinutrients on IQ. By then I’d founded the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and found that the same principles applied to many health problems.

EB: Your new book, The 10 Secrets of 100% Healthy People, has just hit the shelves here in SA. Can you tell us a bit more about the premise of the book?

PH: Firstly, the book is informed by a survey we have carried out on over 55,000 people, looking at the difference between those in poor health and superhealth. From this, and also from my own conclusions from a couple of decades of study, comes ten secrets, each of which is tackled in a very practical way. The book allows you to build your own action plan for improving health, and you can use my on-line 100% Health Check to chart your progress. (see

Behind the book are two major ideas: the first is a ‘systems-based’ approach to health. This is really a new way of looking that makes total sense of both the cause of most of the 21st century’s epidemic diseases and their reversal. It also makes it clear that there will be no magic drug, or vitamin for that matter, that can ‘cure’ diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

Understanding this, prevention is the only viable strategy, and in order to prevent you have to know who is ‘at risk’. The whole concept of knowing where you are on a scale of (100%) health allows you, the reader, to then make changes, experience and measure their effects. This basic strategy could literally be followed by millions of people. We also now have the technology through our on-line 100% Health programme to chart progress and check what makes a difference. In this way I hope, in years to come, to be able to find out what really works in terms of diet, supplements and lifestyle changes on a big scale.

EB: The Low GL Diet has proven to be extremely popular in South Africa. What advice do you have for the people who follow the diet?

PH: Not everyone who ‘follows’ it really ‘follows’ it. What I’ve learnt is that if you do the GL diet strictly it really works. It gives you a means to control weight and, if you slip off the wagon, you know what to do. What’s also become clear is that the combination of the diet, plus the supplements I recommend – chromium, HCA and 5-HTP is a winning formula. If you add in regular exercise, as I recommend, that’s even better.

EB:  The notion of “You are what you eat” is firmly embedded in our everyday lives. Would you say that the matter is as simplistic as that, or is there more to the idea of Optimum Nutrition?

PH: The fundamental concept of optimum nutrition heralds an entire new paradigm in medicine, no less important than that of Louis Pasteur’s discovery that organisms can cause disease. Fundamental to this is the discovery that large amounts of essential nutrients, above that available from a ‘well balanced diet’ can help restore health in people with diseases. It is my firm belief that, in an enlightened society, pharmaceutical drugs would play a very small part in medicine.

EB: Other than nutritional medicine, which other factors would you say play a role in optimum mental health?

PH: Psychological factors are vital. We don’t really learn how to improve our emotional intelligence, let alone our spiritual intelligence. Even in ancient cultures, such as the Greeks, and within Tibetan culture, cultivation of the art of being able to enter a state of awareness that is deeply blissful, and beyond thought and feeling as such. Many people have become disillusioned with religions and, as such, have turned away from pursuing anything spiritual. That create a loss of sense of purpose and a lot of anger. Sure, there are all sorts of problems with organised religions, but there are also all sorts of problems with the world of ‘science’ too.

EB: What does a typical day in your life look like?

PH: I get up at dawn, maybe 6am, and write for a couple of hours. Then I do Psychocalisthenics, a 16 minute vital energy generating exercise, followed by breakfast which is usually either oat flakes with berries and ground seeds and oat milk, or Get Up & Go with berries and oat milk (a smoothie) or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and oatcakes. Then I go to work. I’ll eat another piece of fruit and some seeds or nuts for a mid-morning and a healthy lunch. I drink 1 litre of water a day and drink rooibosch chai. I have no meat or dairy products. I probably spend two days a week teaching. This could be to students at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition or a public lecture. Most weeks I’ll have some media interviews, often by phone from around the world. Quite often I’ll take a short nap, 30 to 40 minutes, in the afternoon and usually end work at 6pm. I might go out in my garden where I’m in charge of growing vegetables. I love watching movies.
EB: What do you yourself like to read?

PH: Mostly nutrition research! As a consequence, often when I switch off I don’t want to do more reading. But I love a good novel and appreciate good literature. Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game is one of my all time favourites. Recent good books have been Shantaram by Gregory D Roberts and Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon.

EB: With more than 30 books behind your name, and more than a million copies sold, you have covered everything from basic health to cancer, Alzheimer’s, addictions and more. What can we expect from Patrick Holford in the near future?

PH: The whole field of nutritional medicine is advancing so rapidly so, right now I’ve been working on brand new, vastly expanded and updated versions of Say No to Cancer and Balancing Hormones Naturally. There’s been a big increase in hormone-related health problems, such as polycystic ovaries and endometriosis. So many women also suffer unnecessarily from PMT and menopausal problems.

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