The Pete Evans Evolution: From Activated Almonds to Awful Advice
Pete Evans: diet guru, “wellness” advocate, celebrity chef and surfer guy. He’s probably more famous, now, for his health ideas than his year-round tan and work on My Kitchen Rules. Pete Evans is a chef but somehow the lines around that profession have blurred and he’s been causing outrage for some time now over his penchant for giving out questionable health advice.
Here’s a few examples of Paleo Pete’s that have set my eyes rolling:
Pete Evans and the Activated Almonds
The first time I thought Pete Evans was a little wacky, it was when he went public with his nuts. You know, the fact that he was soaking them in water to “activate” them. No inactive, lazy old nuts for Pete Evans. I didn’t understand it then and I’m still not clear on the moisture = active thing, but hey, whatever floats your, erm, nuts. Apparently, hydrating your nuts makes them easier to digest. People better educated in the nut-digestion area than I say that actually, we already digest nuts pretty well. But whatever, right? All I hope is that you’re sensible enough to wet your nuts yourself instead of spending all your hard earned money on (significantly more expensive) pre-soaked nuts.
If only he’d stopped at the nuts, before things got dodgy and dangerous. Sigh.
Anti-Fluoride Cavity Fan
Okay, okay, he hasn’t come out and said that he wants people to have unhealthy teeth. But this is the reality of being an anti-fluoride campaigner. He and his wife advocate homemade toothpaste and he’s a well-known supporter of an anti-fluoride group. He recently said, on national telly, that we should “do our own research” about fluoride and by that, he means we should google that shit until we find a blog or website that confirms whatever it is that we want to believe. This is not research. Most people don’t have the training, equipment or access to information to perform scientific research. Even reading studies can lead to dubious conclusions unless you know what you’re doing.
Water fluoridation was introduced in Australia in the 1950s and you know what the primary effect has been? A reduction in dental caries. It has been well studied. If you want to go to the trouble and expense of having fluoride free water and homemade toothpaste, that’s up to you. I hope you have top-level dental cover.
You know what bothers me more than these inaccurate concerns about fluoride? The fact that oral decay is one of the leading causes of chronic infection in children. If untreated, it can cause secondary infections. It can lead to surgical intervention or even cause death. I’ll keep the fluoride, thanks.
Pete Evans and Bone Broth for Babies
Pete Evans, in collaboration with naturopath Helen Padarin and “wellness blogger” Charlotte Carr, decided to put out a cook book. One of their recipes was a bone and pureed liver broth. It was intended to feed babies that couldn’t have breast milk for whatever reason. The trouble being that such homemade baby formula is not safe. Store bought formula is far from perfect but boiling up liver and bones and feeding that to an infant is fucking dangerous. Don’t take my word for it; I speak only from a place of common fucking sense. Plenty of people more educated than I in baby health and nutrition said basically the same thing, only they used words like “irresponsible” and “dangerously high levels of Vitamin A” and “toxic for babies” and “a baby could die”. In the end, the book deal was scrapped but Pete and his mates released it as an e-book. Apparently, Pete and his co-authors added some vitamin C and calcium to the recipe, still leaving it with dangerously high levels of vitamin A. Awesome.
Actually, forget broth. Camel Milk for babies!
Then there was the time that Pete Evans reportedly said camel milk was basically identical to human breast milk so yeah, totally cool to give that to your baby. Once again, this had to be corrected by someone with actual medical knowledge to hopefully prevent vulnerable parents from replacing breast milk with frigging camel milk. President of the Public Health Association of Australia, Professor Heather Yeatman, said that camel milk has triple the amount of protein that human milk does and could cause kidney damage. Just what new parents want for their child, right?
To be fair, Evans did say the media had it wrong and it was actually a nutritionist who wrote the Facebook post on his page about camel milk that detailed how similar it is to human breast milk but didn’t actually recommend people feed it to babies. They just made a super-favourable comparison for no reason at all. However, the camel’s milk recommendation was also then found on Pete’s Paleo Way website. Well, how awkward.
Pete Evans says he doesn’t use proper sunscreen. Why? Well, he said the following during a Facebook Q & A session last year:
“The silly thing is people put on normal chemical sunscreen then lay out in the sun for hours on end and think that they are safe because they have covered themselves in poisonous chemicals, which is a recipe for disaster as we are witnessing these days.”
He’s been quoted as defending his stance by talking about vitamin D deficiency and sure, he might have a point. However, the real concern seems to be a fear of “chemicals”.
Sunscreens, even those with the nano-particles that some people are so worried about, have been studied and found to be safe. You know what is definitely not safe? Skin cancer. Living in Australia and going out without sunscreen is the real recipe for disaster here. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Pete is effectively using his influence to encourage people to stop using proven sunscreens, RIGHT HERE IN MELANOMA CENTRAL. Not cool, Pete Evans. Not cool.
Look, I could go on and on here. There are more examples. Pete Evans once told a lady with osteoporosis to stop consuming dairy because it “leaches calcium from the bones” even though it fucking doesn’t and he’s a chef and not a doctor but actually, that example segues into my next point really well. Pete went on the telly the other night and said he didn’t need a qualification to give out medical or health advice. This was, confusingly, in amongst times where he questioned the qualifications of doctors to provide advice on things like fluoridated water. It would seem qualifications only matter when they suit Pete and as far as health advice that HE believes in, he’s fine to give it out, will-nilly.
Pete Evans is a chef. He likes healthy food and has come up with his own (dare I say HISTORICALLY INACCURATE) version of paleolithic eating. Loads of people rave about the healthy lifestyle they have thanks to his ideas on food. And that’s great.
If people want to give up dairy, eat activated nuts and they feel better for it, that’s fine. I even agree that what we define as healthy food needs to change in line with current research and I hope it gets there soon.
What I don’t agree with is that Pete Evans, a chef, dishes up whatever advice he likes because he’s decided that qualifications (i.e. years of study) are somehow meaningless. That is beyond arrogant and bloody dangerous.