Published on 8th April 2019


We chat with Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION), nutritionist, and author of more than 30 books. Patrick’s latest book, The Hybrid Diet, co-authored with award-winning medical and health journalist Jerome Burne, is out now.


Where did your passion for nutrition come from?

“A mixture of a fascination in human potential and concern about mental illness. The former came from early experiences that showed me there was more to life, a whole extra layer of connection and happiness than most people experience, and the latter from members of my family who were suffering. This led me to study psychology and get interested in intelligence and schizophrenia. Both got me studying the brain, which got me into studying nutrition."


You have written many books on nutrition. What drove you to write your latest one – The Hybrid Diet – and who is it for?

“It came out of a dual. I challenged Jerome Burne, the award-winning journalist who was waxing lyrical about the many benefits of a high fat, ketogenic diet, that I could achieve the exact same benefits from a slow carb, low GL [glycaemic load] diet. As we dug deeper we came to realise that we are designed to switch between these two modes of generating energy – from glucose or ketones – from time to time. It’s a natural cycle of ‘feast and fast’.

“In the winter, when carbs would have been scarce, and we’d switch to burning body fat, it triggers a cellular repair process called autophagy. So, we have a natural cycle of growth and repair – like putting your car in for a service. The trouble is most of us have never had to fast, so the glucose engine has never had a break and is in bad shape, and the ketone engine hasn’t even been unwrapped! We wrote this book so people could look under the bonnet, so to speak, of our extraordinary body, and learn how to become a master of your metabolism, not just a slave to cravings.”


Do you follow the hybrid diet principles yourself, or any other food ‘rules’? What does your daily diet look like?

“Yes I do – and I’m still experimenting. I’ve lost 20 lbs and am back to the weight I was at age 20. Also, my body fat percentage has dropped. On tour I wasn’t ketogenic because it’s too tough, but I still follow low GL principles. I do like having an 18-hour food fast, starting my day with a hybrid latté. If I want to push towards a few days of ketosis I have a low GL bean-based dinner, such as vegetarian chilli with a big dollop of tahini and salad at 7pm, my hybrid latté in the morning, which has a tablespoon of Ketofast (C8 oil) and almond butter; so high in fat but almost non-existent in carbs, then a salmon steak with a whole bag of sautéed spinach, using coconut butter and pesto at 1pm – 18 hours later. If I’m hungry I have some celery or cucumber with taramasalata, or a tablespoon of Ketofast – that will easily get me through to dinner, so I’ve just done 24 hours without carbs. I like doing three weeks low GL and one week high fat keto.”


Good nutrition is obviously fundamental to good health. But what other lifestyle factors should we consider for optimum wellbeing?

“State of mind and exercise is key. Right now I’m not exercising – just keeping active. Last month I climbed Mount Kenya (5,000 m), swam in the ocean a lot (in Kenya) and built a treehouse (in Wales). Next month I’m building a log cabin. I cycle and walk whenever I can.

“You have to work on negative patterns of thought and behaviour. Underneath all the pain, which comes out as fear and anger, is love. Love is the most important thing – we never studied that in psychology.”


What is your proudest achievement?

“It has to be ION. It is pure joy to see how well run the Institute is, and to know how many people are benefiting, and joining our front line of truly effective health care workers. ION was certainly one of my better ideas – and I fought hard for 15 years, through financial crises, media and legal attacks by vested interests who didn’t want this new profession of nutritional therapy to exist. I know I can now be redundant and the whole optimum nutrition movement will be fine. Even so, I still like to be out there, helping people wake up to the extraordinary power of optimum nutrition to trigger the natural healing process that occurs in a well-nourished body, reversing and preventing diseases.”


How do you deal with critics?

“I love critics. I like my ideas to be challenged. That’s how you sharpen up. Linus Pauling’s last words to me were ‘follow the logic’.”


What’s next on the agenda for you? 

“I’m working on a TV series on the decline and fall in mental health and why sub-optimum nutrition and technology addiction has created the perfect storm for a rise in suicide, depression and mental illness. It’s a story that needs to be told. Three professors, David Smith, Robert Lustig and Michael Crawford, have the key pieces. They are talking at the ‘reclaim your brain’ conference on May 8th. This is of crucial importance to us all. Details at”

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