Nutritional therapists are providing expensive dietary advice that could seriously harm patients’ health*, finds Which?
The consumer champion sent undercover investigators posing as patients with a range of health problems to 15 consultations with nutritional therapists charging £50 to £80 per visit. They found shocking examples of dangerous advice which could have put patients with real health problems at risk. Six of the visits were rated as ‘dangerous fails’, a further eight were rated as ‘fails’, and only one was deemed a ‘borderline pass’.
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 nutritional therapist advised her to follow a no-sugar diet for three to six months saying ‘cancer feeds off sugar. By cutting out sugar we have a better chance of the cancer going away’. Which?’s expert panel, including a GP, considered this highly irresponsible and incorrect advice.
Another researcher was told by a therapist that if the course of treatment they prescribed for his severe tiredness started to make him feel unwell, it showed the ‘treatment was working’ and he shouldn’t contact his GP as they ‘wouldn’t understand what was happening’.
Several of the therapists used non-evidence-based testing to ‘diagnose’ a host of symptoms. One researcher who said she had been struggling to conceive for a year was told after having her iris examined that she had ‘a bit of bowel toxicity’ and a ‘leathery bowel’. According to the expert panel, these are both meaningless terms.
Which? also found that some therapists were recommending unnecessary supplements costing up to £70 a month. More worryingly, some of these could have bad side effects, such as stomach pain and diarrhoea, due to the high doses prescribed.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says:
“We found some shocking examples of irresponsible advice given by nutritional therapists. Our research shows that not only were they a waste of money, but some of their recommendations could seriously harm people’s health.
“This is largely a self-regulated industry where anyone can set up and practice as a nutritional therapist, meaning there is no real protection for consumers. While the majority of the therapists Which? visited were registered with the industry body, BANT***, our findings show that it is failing to police these practitioners effectively.
“Which? wants the government to take action to stop nutritional therapists putting people’s health at risk.”
Which? is taking its findings to the government and demanding proper regulation in this sector. Which? advises anyone worried about their health to visit their GP who can refer them to a specialist where necessary. People looking for tailored dietary advice should visit a registered dietician.
– I tend to lean toward loose regulation on most topics but there comes a point where you have to take action against those who set themselves up as authorities on a topic and then proceed to endanger lives.
Something interesting to read: why do dogs bark?