Inspiration or expert? – It’s time to put our health back in the right hands.

What a couple crazy weeks it has been in the food and nutrition world. There has been the Belle-Gibson-The-Whole-Pantry- saga, and health authorities have stopped Pan Macmillan publishing Chef Pete Evan’s new cookbook Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way For New Mums, Babies & Toddlers. For those of you that have been living under a social-media-free rock, here’s a quick debrief:

Belle Gibson is the founder of The Whole Pantry app & cookbook. She promotes healthy living and claims that natural foods and alternative therapies have helped her fight off the multiple cancers she has suffered. An advocate for ‘clean eating’, she discouraged the consumption of gluten and dairy and promoted detoxing. However, recently it was revealed that many of the charities the organisation had promised to donate to have not received any money. Additionally, former friends and work colleagues have suggested that Belle’s health status and cancer diagnoses may be in fact be a slice of a porky pie. Penguin, publisher of The Whole Pantry, has said that the book will no longer be supplied and sold in Australia.

In the Paleo world, Pete has grown his tribal roots into the infant scene. In particular, his team have recommended feeding infants a DIY baby formula made from liver, cod liver oil and bone broth said to mimic the composition of breast milk. However, after an independent analysis was conducted, it was found that it was 749% higher in Vitamin A, 2236% higher in Vitamin B12, 1067 % higher in Iron, 879 % higher in sodium and 220% higher in protein. Whilst more may seem better, it is not always the case (I have a kale overdose story to prove it) But moving on. The main concern here is the Vitamin A content.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and unlike other water-soluble vitamins, is not excreted from the body. It builds up in the body, and at these amounts, can be fatal to a baby. A baby. If you would like some more information on vitamin A and the nutrition implications, pop over and have a read of what Gemma has to say.

In a media release from the Dietitians Association of Australia:

‘This formula could be very harmful to infants, their immature immune and digestive systems could not cope with the formulation and the levels of these nutrients it contains. In a newborn, the formulation could cause permanent damage and possibly result in death.’

Plus, there are mentions of runny eggs and honey that may put babies at risk of infections like salmonella and botulism.

As I was putting the final pieces together on this post, it came to light that whilst Pan Macmillan will not be publishing the cookbook (hooray!), Pete & his team are going ahead and producing a digital version themselves. Even though a baby may die.

Right, okay, phew. Now that you are up to speed, I’d like to ask a question.

What role do these individuals play in your life?

Belle & Pete, like many other health bloggers, are advocating the whole paddock-to-plate notion and throwing processed foods out the window. I love that so many people have embraced eating whole foods and are embarking on lifestyle changes to improve their health – it really does make my dietitian heart sing. As a home cook myself, I find Belle’s recipes beautiful and I occasionally screen shot a recipe off Pete’s facebook page. So there’s no denying they know what they’re doing in the kitchen.

The beauty of individual’s like Pete is that he has the knowledge of how to produce a delicious tasting meal. He has the power to be at the forefront of teaching our children how to put together a healthy meal and install those every day skills that seem to be dwindling in today’s time-poor, convenience-reliant society.

To me they are inspiring individuals.

But are they experts in nutrition?

With no formally-recognised qualifications, it does seem a stupid question to ask. But to quote David Katz, it does seem that ‘Everyone who has ever eaten seems to be granted an equally authoritative opinion about nutrition.’

But, no they are not experts in nutrition. And because of this, they are not a member of a professional body. A professional body where we abide by a code of ethics and agree to first do no harm.

So I would like you to ask yourself this:

  • When you decide to go to Europe, how do you get there? A plane? Who built it? Who flies it?
  • When you need legal advice, where do you go?
  • When your car breaks down, who do you call?
  • When you decide to build your own home, who does the building, the plumbing, and the electrical wiring?

In all the decisions we make in our lives, we all have the guru, the expert in the field whom we go to. We trust them to have whatever part of our lives it may be in their hands. Whether it’s the surgeon operating on our brain or the hairdresser cutting your red bob, you go to them because they know what they are doing. They are trained to do what they do. It’s their thing and they do it right.

So why is it that when an individual with minimal nutrition, physiology and biochemistry education and potentially a large marketing team tells you that fructose is toxic or grains are killing us or anything else remotely fad-like we believe them?

Because they are inspirational.

They give us hope.

And by all means look to these individuals for that. But just remember, nutrition shouldn’t be a game. Our health is not something to play with. Our health is essential to us living, and we must start putting our trust back into the right hands – the qualified hands of the experts in the field.


5 thoughts on “Inspiration or expert? – It’s time to put our health back in the right hands.

  1. Really enjoyed this piece Emma! I’ve been outraged at the outbreak of these two stories and it certainly has given me a reminder to not fall into the “inspirational health bloggers” trap. It baffles me that Pete followers are not taking the concern seriously, and are willing to risk their child’s lives because they perceive him to be an authority (must.stop.reading.comments.section). I actually bought Belle’s book soon after it was published and after scouring the pages I was pretty disappointed with the fad approach, from “detox” and “alkalising” to “gluten/grain/sugar/dairy free” then encouraging ghee and coconut oil as a healthy fat source (ahem, apparently deep fried food isn’t harmful if it’s fried in coco oil…). Plus I didn’t get around to trying any of the recipes because they use super pricey elitist ingredients. But, thinking Belle had cancer, I felt sympathetic towards her. So needless to say, the news has me even more mad. The problem lies in these “health authorities” convincing the masses that health professionals have vested interests/are paid out by “big food/pharma” and then present themselves as the ones who have the answer. And the eery cult-like references to “my tribe” or “community”. Keep fighting the good fight with your evidence based info x

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