All the Pete Evans claims you shouldn’t believe
Debunking celebrity chef Pete Evans' dubious health advice over the past eight years has become a game of whack a mole for Australia's peak medical bodies.
But despite his mainstream career largely ending after a Nazi meme saw him dumped by Channel 10, publishers and retailers, support for Evans is thriving on his growing network of online platforms.
His 1.5 million Facebook and 277,000 Instagram followers are distrustful of challenges to his "truth" and as social media platforms crack down on misinformation, Evans has moved much of his pseudoscience behind a paywall.
On his subscriber-only Evolve site, populated with vodcasts, docos, live chats and articles, he promotes views of fringe medicos from Dr Seth Garlach who claims 5G and coronavirus starve the body of oxygen, to conspiracy theorist David Icke whose thoughts on COVID saw him chucked off YouTube.
But even behind a paywall, conspiracies and 'anecdotal' health claims don't trump science. These are the facts about some of Evan's most dangerous advice.
Evans calls himself "pro safe" but his rhetoric is undeniably anti-vaccine, especially with regards to COVID-19. He has repeatedly spread untruths about immunisation including that it's linked to autism, and promotes professional anti-vaxxers including flat-earther David Wolf and 'coronavirus is a scam' Sherri Tenpenny on his social media.
The science: Anti-vaxxers often allude to "a growing body" of evidence that proves vaccines are not safe. There is no such body of evidence.
High quality studies over many years around the world involving more than a million children have confirmed there is no link between them and conditions like autism, multiple sclerosis, even childhood cancers.
The original 1998 paper that suggested a causal link with autism, published in The Lancet, was completely discredited by scientists, withdrawn, apologised for and its author struck off the medical register for dishonesty and misconduct.
The Sunday Telegraph's Jane Hansen enlisted Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Harry Nespolon to debunk Evans' claims one by one, including "immunisation overloads the immune system (wrong) and "adjuvants and additives in vaccines are dangerous (wrong, and there's higher doses in breastmilk).
Dr Nespolon also explains why the autism claim is bunk: "It has been shown over and over again that there is no relationship between measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination and autism and it is not just some little study, they have done whole-of-population studies in northern Europe."
Baby bone broth
In 2015, Evans co-authored a book for mums promoting the benefits of a DIY baby bone formula made from livers, bone broth and oils as a safe alternative to breastfeeding.
The science: The formula wasn't safe. The broth for 0-6 month olds had not undergone testing for safety or efficacy and "could potentially cause a vitamin A overdose in infants".
It contained ingredients unsuitable for infants who don't have the renal, immune or gastrointestinal function to metabolise the nutrients from such ingredients.
Professor Heather Yeatman from the Public Health Association of Australia said at the time "there's a very real possibility that a baby may die" and Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) campaigned to get the book off shelves.
Independent testing by Food Standards Australian New Zealand found the DIY formula was significantly higher than breast milk in Vitamin A (749% higher), Vitamin B12 (2,326% higher), sodium (879% higher).
It contained insufficient calcium, no carbohydrate - required for brain development - and did not mimic the composition of breast milk.
Revised recipes of the infant 'brew' came with the caveat it was for six months and older, but the DAA said it could still seriously harm babies with 4.5 times more Vitamin A than recommended.
Evans advised that "calcium from dairy can remove the calcium from your bones" and can worsen osteoporosis.
The science: A spokesman for Osteoporosis Australia said it was utterly false.
The keystone to preventing osteoporosis is adequate calcium intake and this was achieved by three (daily) serves of calcium-rich foods like dairy.
Dairy is the most easily available source and has the highest calcium content.
The Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, Osteoporosis Australia and the Endocrine Society of Australia collectively rejected Evans' nutritional views on calcium and the effect of dairy foods upon bone health.
"We are motivated by our desire that the Australian public receive scientific facts, not by conspiracy with big business or pharma," they said in a joint statement.
Like many self-styled 'heath coaches', Evans was suspected of quoting old data which said calcium might be acidic and caused bone resorption, said Professor Peter Ebeling, medical director of Osteoporosis Australia.
"We know that's not true. He's absolutely wrong in this regard."
Evans claims a paleo diet which he promotes and profits from, can "reverse" or "help manage" conditions like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, preventing autism in children.
The diet, high in meat and saturated fats, favours eating foods hunter gatherers could obtain, and limits those that became common when farming began 10,000 years ago like grains.
The science: The diet dismisses that fact human bodies have actually adapted over time.
There was also not one Palaeolithic diet and there is evidence people ate grains and legumes during the period.
Studies of the diet have been few and small in scale, and have not been able to demonstrate the benefits claimed by devotees.
What experts do know is like any restrictive fad diet, it can leave followers at risk of deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, critical to bone health, while eating high saturated fat and protein can increase the risk of kidney and heart disease and certain cancers.
Some adherents who put their kids on the diet have also affected their health, including in northern NSW in the case of a 10-month-old baby who became gravely ill after being weaned onto a paleo diet.
Evans has discussed the merits of going full carnivore for severe health conditions, despite research that has found high-meat diets can be dangerous.
Since 2011, Bowel Cancer Australia has adhered to the position of the World Cancer Research Fund, which concluded there is convincing evidence that consumption of red meat and processed meat are causes of bowel cancer.
The Magic Pill
There's a lot to unpack in Evan's doco, The Magic Pill, which makes the claim that a ketogenic diet can impact significantly on autism, Alzheimer's, epilepsy and kidney disease and even resulted in a woman with breast cancer's tumours shrinking.
One of the most concerning claims in the doco involved a four-year-old non-verbal girl with autism shown being able to speak for the first time after adopting a keto diet.
The science: AMA president Michael Gannon at the time said "the idea that a high-fat diet can change a child's behaviour in a month is just so patently ridiculous … and yet the reality is the parents of autistic children are so desperate they will search for anything."
He also criticised the film for "invoking some kind of grand conspiracy" between the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, the medical profession and "everyone else".
The AMA called on Netflix to pull the doco, narrated and produced by Evans, saying the "risk of misinformation is too great" especially to vulnerable members of the community like people with cancer - who might believe its claims over the advice of health professionals.
Professor Andrew Whitehouse, Chief Research Officer for Autism Cooperative Research Centre, said diet modification was one of the most prominent alternative therapies around autism, but there was currently little scientific evidence that a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet has beneficial effects for children with autism.
On its website, Autism Spectrum Australia states: Over the past two decades, research on the effect of diet and nutrition on autism has been increasing, with a focus on the role of food additives, refined sugar, food allergies, and fatty acid metabolism.
Evans claims coronavirus doesn't exist, that COVID-19 is a "'f**king scam" and "social distancing will make you sicker and lower your immune system" in live posts.
He has been vocal against the use of face masks and in April was fined more than $25,000 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) over claiming a 'Bio Charger' device had magical coronavirus eradication properties.
He has also promoted conspiracies that tech billionaire Bill Gates is behind a bizarre plot to depopulate the world through vaccination.
Meta-analysis in The Lancet reported face mask use 'could result in a large reduction in risk of infection' with COVID-19. As does research published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found universal mask-wearing could be one of the most important tools in tackling the spread of COVID-19.
As for the biocharger device that was promoted during a Facebook live stream on 9 April 2020, Evans' was slapped with more than $25,000 in fines over the device following his claims it could be used against the "Wuhan coronavirus". The Australian Medical Association didn't hold back in their response: "Pete Evans is trying to sell a $15,000 fancy light machine to vulnerable and frightened people to protect them against #COVID_19.
He is not a doctor. He is not a scientist. He is a chef."
Evans told his 1.5 million Facebook followers that sunscreen was "poisonous" and "silly" then went on to recommend a product not listed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The science: The Cancer Council's Terry Slevin blasted Evans for his dismissal of sunscreen.
"The science is clear, increased exposure to UV radiation equals an increased risk of skin cancer and this is from people who have been researching this for decades," Mr Slevin said.
Groundbreaking Australian research has demonstrated that regular sunscreen use can prevent the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. Known as the Nambour study, half of the 1600 randomly selected residents from Nambour in Queensland applied sunscreen every day and the other half applied sunscreen as they would normally.
After 15 years, the people who applied daily had half the melanomas of the other group.
One of the concerns raised around sunscreen in the past is over the nanoparticles it contains.
These particles have been used since the 90s because they offer broad spectrum protection from the sun. In 2013, the TGA which regulates sunscreens sold in Australia, conducted a review to debunk these fears. The conclusion was the particles do not penetrate the underlying skin layers or cause harm to the wearer.
Evans claimed in a Facebook rant it would be "dangerous" for vegan women not to eat "animal fat" while trying to conceive. Vegan mothers across Australia responded in droves, posting photos of their healthy babies, highlighting Evans' unsubstantiated opinions.
The science: There are multiple studies showing vegetarians and vegans are at risk of nutritional deficiencies, but if the adequate intake of nutrients is upheld, pregnancy outcomes are similar to those reported in the omnivorous population.
The available evidence shows that well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are safe during pregnancy and lactation, as long as women get a balanced intake of key nutrients.
Evans' claims around fluoride in drinking water include that it's a major contributor to thyroid, brain and degenerative diseases and lowers IQ in kids.
The science: Fluoride has been used in Australia for 60 years without issue, and when Evans weighed into a fluoride-free campaign in WA, the AMA's WA president Dr Michael Gannon told him to "butt out".
"Water fluoridation is something that has the full backing of the Australian Dental Association and the AMA, it's cheap, it's proven to be beneficial, and data repeatedly proves that it is effective in reducing cavities in children," Dr Gannon said.
There have been numerous studies into whether there's any link between fluoridation and IQ. One, in Sweden, involving 728,000 people, showed no association between fluoride levels in water and child or adult IQ.
The National Health and Medical Research Council, World Health Organisation, the World Dental Federation, the Australian Dental Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all stated fluoride in water is safe.
The NHMRC found, there was reliable evidence to suggest water fluoridation at current levels in Australia of 0.6-1.1 parts per million is not associated with cancer, Down syndrome, cognitive problems, lowered intelligence, hip fracture, chronic kidney disease, kidney stones, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, low birth weight, premature death from any cause, musculoskeletal pain, osteoporosis, skeletal fluorosis (extra bone fluoride), thyroid problems or other self-reported complaints.
Most studies that claim to show adverse health effects report on areas where there are high levels of fluoride occurring naturally in the water supply. This is often more than 2-10 parts per million or more, up to 10 times levels found in Australian water. Making up baby formula, therefore, is safe using fluoridated tap water at levels found in Australian.
Originally published as All the Pete Evans claims you shouldn't believe