Did Paleo Pete jump away from the frying pan and into the fire?

Thousands of viewers watched the Sunday Night special on 22 March 2017 to see Pete Evans face the media instead of judge cooking contestants on the popular cooking show My Kitchen Rules (that also happens to be on the same Channel).

The episode was promoted using a media term ‘grilling’ but reporters were rather soft on Pete as he shared his views on various health topics such as paleo diet, water fluoridation, use of sunscreen and consumption of dairy products.

There was some reasonable advice on consuming fresh veggies and good fats, however his opinions on sunscreen use and water fluoridation, while he is entitled to them, can only be regarded as inaccurate and completely against the vast majority of published science. Unfortunately, the more controversial comments took the spotlight in place of the good health message he had to offer.

A vast number of health professionals tuned in to see Pete present his ‘mountain of evidence’ to support the claims about dangers of the ‘neurotoxin’ known as fluoride that he preaches to thousands of his followers. However his response was rather disappointing as he advised viewers to do their own research. Although what more could anyone expect from a celebrity chef with no formal health education or training.

Unfortunately typing the term “water fluoridation” into Google and reading the first article on the list doesn’t count as a scientific research nor does it help people to make informed decisions about their health.

Days following his interview Pete did provide one piece of evidence to back his anti-fluoride claims, a 2015 study by S Peckham, D Lowery and S Spencer on water fluoridation and thyroid disease that has since been heavily criticized for misinterpreting conclusions and the authors having no expertise in epidemiology or thyroid disease.

This becomes clear as iodine intake or deficiency (which is a key contributor to thyroid issues) was not measured in this study which claimed to assess hypothyroidism and its causes. The study also recycled data originally collected for another research project and was purely an observational study—one of the weakest forms of science. If the researcher feels they have observed something they write it down, making the results very subjective to examiner bias.

The authors argued that there is a weak correlation between fluoride and hypothyroidism, however correlation does not necessarily equal causation. For instance, the number of people who drowned by falling into a swimming pool correlates exactly with the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in. Should he stop making movies (probably) so we can all swim safer in our pools next year?

Pete uses his notoriety to cherry-pick inadequate research articles and use scaremongering tactics to spread his message while having no scientific or medical background to assess this information. In a nutshell fluoride is naturally occurring mineral that is found in a lot of water sources and the link between water fluoridation and its anti-decay benefits have been well-established (Google Scholar has numerous articles on this topic).

Water fluoridation has been in Australia since 1956 with Queensland being the only state that wasn’t fluoridated up until recently. Water fluoridation is supported by all credible health bodies and considered safe at the recommended low levels at one part per million. As far as toxicity goes too much of anything can become toxic, ingesting too much salt or sugar can have ill health consequences.

It wouldn’t be the first time celebrities offered bad health advice or even had major influence on public health. Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy have been prominent anti-vaxxers for years making claims that vaccine caused their son’s autism. Subsequently, good quality science disproved any link, however their celebrity status gave credit to the misinformation and a great deal of suffering has occurred since due to preventable diseases.

Many people are seeking alternative therapies to their health—but to quote a song by celebrity who sits on the other side of the fence—the genius Tim Minchin: “By definition”, I begin
“Alternative Medicine”, I continue
“Has either not been proved to work,
or been proved not to work”.
“You know what they call alternative medicine
that’s been proved to work?—Medicine.”

Here, at Bite Dental, we are strong believers in preventative dentistry that will help to reduce the incidence of oral diseases and help you maintain good dental and overall health.

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