health

A look at the claims made in Pete Evans’ ‘The Magic Pill’ documentary.

Google Aussie chef and author Pete Evans and you’ll find a mix of avid fans who follow his wellness advice like it’s gospel and another camp who are strongly against his opinion.

An advocate for the Paleo diet, Evans in the past has been accused by the Australian Medical Association of putting people in danger with regards to his take on fluoride, calcium and sunscreen.

He’s a fan of camel milk, is totally against grains and legumes and believes that dairy removes calcium from bones.

Evans’ documentary, The Magic Pill, was released in May 2017 and has just made its way to Netflix. It explores the Paleo lifestyle and asks the question ‘What if most of our modern diseases are really just symptoms of the same problem?’

We asked dietitian and nutritionist Rachel Scoular to break down some of the claims made in the hour and a half long film.


“Before I started watching I was super skeptical. Let’s be honest – Pete Evans definitely doesn’t have the greatest reputation. There is a bit of merit in there, but also a lot of bias. I wonder if these participants fell subject to the placebo effect, too,” Rachel told Mamamia.

Vegetable oils are toxic.

“Vegetable oils are not the greatest, that’s for sure, and they offer little nutritional value when compared to alternatives. These oils are often blended with palm oil, which is very high in saturated fat and has been frequently linked to heart disease,” Rachel said.

“The other thing to mention is that this documentary encouraged a large intake of butter, ghee and lard as alternative to the vegetable oils.

“These fats, whilst ‘naturally’ sourced are also super high in saturated fats and should be limited. My suggestion is to choose heart healthy oils, like olive oil, avocado, nut oils, as these are high in omega 3, omega 6 and are the most preferable form of fat for the diet.”

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Grains are very bad.

“Pete Evans has been on the anti-grain background for years, so I’m not surprised this was a heavy focus,” Rachel said.

“I disagree and firmly believe there is a role for whole grains in the diet. They are included in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and are the leading contributor for seven key nutrients in the our diet, which are fibre, iron, magnesium, iodine, carbohydrates, folate and thiamine.

“Yes, whilst these are also found in other food sources, the quantities vary vastly, and the volume of other foods you would need to consume to reach your recommended dietary intake for these essential nutrients is much higher.

Rachel believes that good quality grins have a place in a balanced diet. Image: Unsplash

“To sum up, whilst the nutrients provided from grains are also in other food sources, whole grains are the most efficient, affordable and practical way to gain the essential nutrients.”

Being in a mild state of ketosis is really the place to be.

“I disagree with this one. Whilst it has shown to be beneficial for immediate weight loss, it's not the way we are designed to function,” Rachel said.

Being in ketosis may offer some metabolic benefits in the short term, but it isn't something recommended for the general population, regardless of race. The long term effects of continued ketosis are still unknown and the safety and side-effects has only been studied in the short term.

About to be on the morning show talking about #themagicpill

A post shared by Pete Evans (@chefpeteevans) on

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The documentary also follows a person with autism and one with diabetes. These people changed their diets to follow the paleo guidelines for 10 weeks and saw a vast improvement in their wellbeing at the end.

We asked Rachel for her thoughts on this experiment.

“This is a bit of a tough one. It's hard to conclusively say and I really believe everyone requires an individualised treatment,” she said.

“There is research which supports the role of the ketogenic diet as a medical treatment for epilepsy, particularly in children. So, some of the results experienced by the child wasn't too surprising - albeit interesting to occur so drastically.”

“I am however, a little skeptical of the child's compliance with the ketogenic diet, given the sheer rigidity of the diet and from my clinical experience, children really do struggle staying on the diet."

With regards to diabetes management, Rachel suggests exercising extreme caution.

“Constant management of both blood glucose levels and ketone levels would be mandatory, completed under the guidance of the patient's GP and a full multidisciplinary team. In short, I wouldn't recommend for a diabetic," she said.

“Ultimately, I think a longer experiment with a larger population sample would be vital to begin to conclude any benefits, this documentary is too short and doesn't include enough study participants. We'd also need to include controls to avoid any bias."

The Out Loud crew discuss the new diet that combines paleo and veganism...

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