ScienceMade possible by

Sorry Paleo Pete, but I’ll take medical qualifications over your ‘common sense’ any day

Every time celebrity chef Pete Evans talks about his ‘wellness’ beliefs, scientists and doctors line up to counter them with peer-reviewed research and established facts. That’s because Evans’ ‘common sense’ sounds a lot like utter nonsense, writes Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

“What do you need a qualification for to talk common sense?” That was the response of Australian celebrity chef Pete ‘Paleo’ Evans during a recent TV interview about the health advice he gives out. The common sense he’s referring to in this instance is his belief that we should all be abandoning our modern agricultural diets because they are out of sync with our biology and making us chronically ill.

Instead Evans believes we should be eating what our Paleolithic ancestors did over 10,000 years ago – lots of meat, some fruit and vegetables, but definitely no grains, legumes and dairy. This is touted as the key to a healthier and longer life. The fact that the ‘paleo’ diet has no basis in archaeological reality and that our Paleolithic ancestors lived short lives seems to be irrelevant. In 2013 anthropologist Dr Christina Warinner, a specialist in evolutionary medicine, gave an excellent TEDx talk debunking the paleo diet:

Evans hit the headlines in 2015 when it was revealed he was co-authoring a paleo recipe book for new mums, babies and toddlers. The book includes a recipe for a “DIY baby milk formula” also known as ‘bone broth’, which paediatricians slammed for containing dangerous levels of Vitamin A with the potential to kill babies. Hardly talking “common sense”. Honestly, I’d take the advice of a bunch of qualified doctors who study babies over Evans and his co-authors, voice-over actress and ‘wellness’ blogger Charlotte Carr and naturopath Helen Padarin.

Just to be clear, a naturopath is someone who practises a form of pseudoscientific, alternative medicine that believes in the body’s ability to ‘self-heal’ given the right ‘natural’ treatments. You don’t need to take my word that this is dangerous bullshit – former naturopath Britt Marie Hermes is now a vocal opponent of the practice she trained in. After all the bad press, the publisher, Pan Macmillan Australia, said they wouldn’t be publishing the book in print form, so Evans, Carr and Padarin published the book online instead.

Pete Evans

Evans doesn’t limit himself to just talking about the paleo diet though. He also tackles water fluoridation (he’s anti, in case you were wondering, calling it a neurotoxin) and sunscreens (which he also thinks are full of toxins). And Evans reaches a large audience. He has over 1 and a half million followers in Facebook. Of course, he’s not the only celebrity who offers “common sense” medical advice. Another celebrity with over a million Facebook followers is actress and ‘wellness’ blogger Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s raved about the benefits of vaginal steaming (sitting over a pot of steamy herb-filled water to “cleanse your uterus” and “balance female hormone levels”) and sleeping with a jade egg the size of a golf ball stuffed inside your vagina (to “increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general”). In case you are wondering, both these activities will do nothing for your hormones but are excellent ways to get a really horrible and potentially life-threatening infection.  

And of course, who can forget all the celebrities who know more about the safety of vaccines than the many people who’ve actually studied them? People like Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy seem to think there is a worldwide conspiracy to poison children. In fact, vaccines are the one thing that do play a huge role in helping us live long and healthier lives by preventing infectious diseases, many of which can have very serious consequences.

I agree with Evans that you don’t need a qualification to talk common sense. If only Evans and his fellow celebrity ‘wellness’ gurus would actually talk it, instead of the potentially harmful bullshit they spout.


The Spinoff’s science content is made possible thanks to the support of The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, a national institute devoted to scientific research.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.