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Pete Evans' documentary should be cut from Netflix, doctors group says

AMA says celebrity chef’s film claiming ketogenic diet can help serious medical conditions is ‘irresponsible’

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Pete Evans: “When 70-80% of illness is diet/lifestyle related, then shouldn’t prevention be a considered approach?”



Pete Evans: “When 70-80% of illness is diet/lifestyle related, then shouldn’t prevention be a considered approach?”
Photograph: James Morgan/AAP

The Australian Medical Association has called on Netflix to remove an “irresponsible” documentary from celebrity chef Pete Evans that claims diet can help autism, asthma and even cancer.

The Magic Pill, a 2017 film produced and narrated by Evans, advocates for the ketogenic diet – one that is extremely low in carbohydrates, but high in fat and protein.

One case study from the film said the diet had helped a young child deal with autism, after five weeks of avoiding carbs. Another claimed that a woman’s breast cancer tumour shrunk.

Dr Tony Bartone, the head of the AMA, said this portrayal of a ketogenic diet as a cure-all could have harmful effects, especially on cancer patients and children.

“There is some early evidence, and lot of animal models, that it may have a role in maybe autism, certainly epilepsy – but it is still yet to be fully evaluated,” he said.

“A ketogenic diet is not without risk and it really should be performed in conjunction with a medical practitioner. A long term ketogenic diet can be associated with unhealthy weight loss, kidney stones, and in children can lead to nutritional deficiencies and immune system issues.”

The ketogenic diet, as set out in the film, tells viewers to eat whole and organic foods, avoid grains and dairy, eat a high level of animal fats, olive oil, eggs and avocados, and avoid “bad fats” like vegetable oils.

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Tony Bartone: ‘They should be listening to their oncologist or medical practitioner and not a celebrity chef.’

Tony Bartone: ‘They should be listening to their oncologist or medical practitioner and not a celebrity chef.’ Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

In 2015, one of Evans’s cookbooks for children was pulled from publication after a recipe was discovered to be potentially fatal for babies. His recipe for DIY milk formula, made from liver and bone broth, had 10 times the safe limit of vitamin A.

Last year, Evans was also criticised by the AMA for claiming dairy removed calcium from bones and that sunscreen was toxic.

Bartone said The Magic Pill’s claims around cancer were especially harmful.

“This is trying to work on the vulnerable and the impressionable in our community. They should be listening to their oncologist or medical practitioner and not a celebrity chef.”

Evans responded to the claims on Facebook, saying the medical association had an interest in keeping Australians unhealthy.

“Does the head of the AMA believe that eating vegetables and fruit with a side of well sourced meat/seafood/eggs to be a dangerous way of life? Perhaps the bigger question to ask would be, ‘Is the head of the AMA fearful of people in Australia becoming healthy? What would this mean to their industry?’”

The chef claimed his film was backed up by leading cardiologists, doctors and scientists.

“Modern medicine is fabulous and vitally needed as we do say in the film, however, when 70-80% of illness is diet/lifestyle related, then shouldn’t prevention be a considered approach?”

The film also begins with a disclaimer that tells viewers that apart from food, factors like exercise, sleep and meditation play a role in overall health as well.

“While we emphasise the science behind the dietary advice, the personal stories portrayed in this film are anecdotal and we make no claims that these experiences are typical,” it says. “Always consult with you doctor or health professional before starting any new diet.”

This is then followed by a quote attributed to ancient Greek physician Hippocrates that “nature is the healer of disease”.

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