A recent opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper entitled “Why we fell for clean eating” took a considerable swipe at the recent phenomenon of orthorexia – the obsession with healthy eating; which it claimed is fueled by pseudoscience, quackery and “post-truth”. It was particularly scathing of the vegan movement and the suggestion that our modern foods could in any way be described as dirty.

It is indeed alarming that people without qualifications in the field of nutrition and dietary health are prescribing eating protocols based more on personal opinions than solid science; yet the piece also fails to acknowledge that the modern food chain is awash for low quality, mass produced food stuffs that have very much been scientifically proven to cause ill health.

As a natural health practitioner, NH21 is used to reading such anti-food-health slander; yet was disturbed by the level of vitriol in this latest piece, especially from a newspaper that is mostly considered left-of-centre.

Alas, in an effort to distance oneself from the juice-guru’s, and to further enhance the already considerable evidence base for complementary therapies that are referenced, accredited and peer reviewed; this dietary advisor has just signed up for MSc Advanced Complementary Medicine (Research and Practice) with the Northern College of Acupuncture.

The Northern College of Acupuncture, established in 1988 and located in the centre of historic York, is an independent College with a reputation for training excellent practitioners. They teach courses in acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine, providing practitioner training to degree and postgraduate degree level for students from the UK and EU; plus, also offer MSc courses for practitioners from all over the world.

Northern College of Acupuncture is a registered charity. They were the first teaching institution of any kind in the UK to offer a University degree in acupuncture, the first to offer a University degree in Chinese herbal medicine, and the first to achieve professional accreditation for acupuncture courses, as well as their courses in nutritional therapy and Chinese herbal medicine. In 1990 they established a sister research charity, the Foundation for Research into Traditional Chinese Medicine (FRTCM), which is now based at the College, recognising the need to carry out robust research into the value of these therapies.

Students begin with the module centered on building research skills, which benchmarks the skills required to complete a research dissertation at MSc level; guiding through the academic skills needed such as systematically searching databases, critiquing research papers, evaluating different methodologies for a given research project, and building a research plan that is both ethical and well designed.

From there students complete a self-initiated module to design their own learning plan and programme. This supports special interests in particular fields, and is related to the individual practitioner client base. Skills enhanced include developing a complete project from start to finish, setting goals and learning outcomes, and writing up a report using all the skills needed to complete the dissertation phase of the MSc.

Finally, students design and carry out unique research and write it up as a dissertation. This normally takes another one to two years. In this time, with the support of a supervisor, candidates design and implement a project that is then written up in the form of a research dissertation and poster; eventually published through conferences and in professional journals.

The issue with clean eating is that it inherently suggests that, to a large degree, modern humans have in fact made themselves sick. A bitter pill to swallow for some who would rather feel they have been struck down through no fault of their own despite appalling diets and sedentary living.

Health care in the 21st century needs to evolve to cope with the increasing prevalence of lifestyle related disease. Evidence based practice is what is needed, and this health coach is thrilled to be part of that process.