lifestyle

The 5 reasons nutritionists and scientists hate Pete Evans.

A television report slamming celebrity chef Pete Evans as a dangeous fraud is making headlines this morning. So is that criticism fair?

“Unqualified and dangerous.”

They’re the words Channel 9’s A Current Affair used last night to describe celebrity chef Pete Evans.

The report, which featured interviews with numerous health professionals, slammed the My Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans for his endorsement of the paleo diet. The show declared Evans had made “a fortune” from his popular fad diet, which now forms the basis of a TV show, an upcoming documentary, cookbooks and an even a recipe ebook for babies.

Many of Evans’ army of 1,000,000+ social media supporters immediately leapt online to defend him following the segment, and one Fairfax writer dismissed the segment as “a blatant commercial swipe by Nine at rival Seven”.

So today, we asked several health professionals whether criticism of Evans’ paleo diet is founded — and our research found the diet is, well, not exactly popular in expert circles. Here are five reasons health professionals aren’t supporting Pete Evans:

1. He claims that his diet can cure disease.

Pete Evans claims that eating paleo can cure serious health conditions including asthma, dementia and cancer.

Most recently, Evans claimed in a 2100-word Facebook post that a diet based on current Australian healthy eating guidelines is behind a rise in autism.

Screenshot via A Current Affair.

But as Professor Kerryn Phelps AM pointed out in the ACA segment, the diet in fact “has not been shown” to shrink tumours, lead to cancer remission, stop asthma, or stop dementia.

“I think the claims are at best, optomistic, and at worst, fraudulent,” she said.

Dr Rosemary Stanton similarly confirmed to Mamamia there’s no “valid scientific reason” why such a diet would ‘cure’ autism.

Dr Stanton added that she’s concerned that “in spite of a lack of evidence, followers with serious health problems may adopt this diet instead of getting proper medical diagnosis and effective treatment — and it does appear that at least some of his followers are doing just that.”

As Australian Women’s Weekly points out, one Evans fan has posted online that her father is “healing his melanomas, all because he is following the Paleo way.” Another follower, who’s battling leukaemia, posted online: “I now feel [the Paleo diet] might be my way to try and one day get off my chemotherapy medication that I take every day, not to mention all the antibiotics I’ve had to be on to fight infections along the way.”

2. He ignores data showing the value of legumes and wholegrains.

Dr Stanton told Mamamia that while paleo’s promotion of vegetables and less junk food is “great”, she has serious other concerns about the diet.

For one thing, Dr Stanton believes the diet “ignores the massive amount of data showing the value of legumes and wholegrains in reducing risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer”.

She also pointed out that “it deprives the large intestine of the ‘good’ bacteria that multiply when we consume wholegrains and legumes and increases the risk of bowel cancer if followers consume large amounts of red meat”.

Dr Stanton also said she was concerned the diet promotes orthorexia, “an eating disorder where followers develop excessive rigidity and an unhealthy obsession about what they consume”.

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The disorder– which gets its name from the Greek word ortho, meaning straight, proper or correct —  is also known as the “health food eating disorder”.

3. He promotes an eating plan that’s unhealthy for kids.

Health experts also told Mamamia that parents should not, except in exceptional circumstances, put otherwise healthy children on restrictive eating plans like the paleo diet.

“I believe in ‘paleo-inspired ‘and not taking an extreme approach on food especially with babies and toddlers,” nutritionist and author Michele Chevally Hedge, founder of www.myfamilywellness.com.au, told Mamamia last year. “Everyone has bio individual needs- some but not all people required dairy free and no grains.”

Dr Stanton took a similar view, explaining that while a “small percentage” of children have an allergy to the protein in cow’s or goat’s milk, “for all other children, milk and yoghurt and cheese are useful foods, supplying protein, calcium, several of the B complex vitamins, especially riboflavin and vitamin B12.”

In a follow-up email today, she added: “It’s unlikely to meet the nutritional needs of growing children.”

Dr Kerryn Phelps.

4. He attacks qualified health professionals.

Finally, nutritionists and dietitians have taken issue with Evans’ repeated attacks on qualified medical professionals and bodies like the National Heart Foundation.

Dietitian Susie Burrell told Mamamia that while every individual has a right to determine their own diet, “to then publicly attack a range of health professionals and associations without any consequence is unbelievable”.

“To then be offended when questions are asked of their own messaging creates another level of disbeliefm” she added.

“Chefs can eat and promote what they like. But they are not qualified or in a position to give dietary advice nor criticise the dietary advice being given. And then arguing that every other dietary organisation and individual is corrupt is ludicrous,” she said.

“No health professional goes into their profession with any other intention than to help individuals achieve better health.”

5. The paleo diet is unsustainable.

Finally, as Professor Phelps said on the ACA segment, any fad diet including the paleo diet is destined to fail, because it’s not sustainable.

“It really isn’t a healthy diet that is sustainable in the long term,” she said on the show, adding that her patients often suffer symptoms from attempting the diet.

“Quite often these people are just not getting carbohydrate in their diet because they’ve cut out grains, so they’re exhausted a lot of the time,” she said.

“Nothing the media can create will stop what we have created and continue to grow here,” Pete Evans wrote this morning.

Evans himself shared a few choice words this morning, hitting back at the show as a “witch hunt”.

“I would… like to thank everyone that has voiced their support on social media after last nights “witch-hunt” tv segment doing their best to smear my name and create fear,” he posted on Facebook today.

“Nothing the media can create will stop what we have created and continue to grow here. Each and every day we will continue to share your amazing stories which have the capacity and power to motivate change.”

Some of the unhappy responses to the A Current Affair show:

A trailer for the controversial segment:

Related:

There’s a paleo book for babies now. Ugh.

Oh, so it’s my COOKING that caused my son’s autism?

Eating clean isn’t about health anymore. It’s about shame.

Pete Evans’ fiancee: The woman behind the activated almonds.

Explain to me: What is the problem with MRK’s Pete Evans?

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