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.
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”.