Some people are confused why I am so ‘anti-celebrity-food-fads’. In a time where everyone is now a nutrition expert, let me explain why.
It’s because anyone giving nutrition advice has an ethical responsibility that the information they provide is 100% accurate and will not cause any harm, but they don’t follow this ethic”
I am writing this article because of the large amount of eating disorders and illness that I am witnessing, as a direct result of information given by unqualified nutrition ‘experts’
I am absolutely horrified by a lot of the nutrition information given by people unqualified in nutrition. These are just some of them
– Adding kale to everything
Did you know that eating kale can be fatal for people taking certain blood pressure medications?
People with certain thyroid conditions shouldn’t eat kale so the advice that ‘You can never eat too much kale’ is dangerous.
– Brazil nuts in nut butters, smoothies and as snacks
Eating more than 2 or 3 brazil nuts at a time can cause selenium toxicity. So those nut butter recipes, and raw vegan slices using tons of brazil nuts can be harmful.
– Macca Powder frenzy
Macca powder shouldn’t be taken by people with certain thyroid conditions.
– Pate and liver the new superfood for toddlers
Yes, it’s the new trendy thing to feed toddlers home made pate as it is high in nutrients but alarmingly, it can cause Vitamin A toxicity. Babies and toddlers should not be eating liver every day. Just 100 grams of liver contains 10 times the UPPER LEVEL of intake for children.
– Dairy/Fruit/Gluten/Grains/X/Y/Z etc are bad
They’re not. Stop the fear mongering.
As a health professional you have a responsibility to ‘First, do no harm’
You see, every time I give advice, I am thinking ‘Will this information be harmful to this person/people in any way?’
Every single time.
I ask myself, will me telling this person that they need to cut out dairy harm them in any way? Yes. It may increase their risk of developing osteoperosis and breaking a bone later in their life. Sixty percent of elderly people with osteoperosis who break a bone will die within 6 months of the break. I myself are dairy intolerant and understand that dairy isn’t for everyone. But this doesn’t mean that I believe everyone should eat MY WAY.
So you can see that my recommendations extend far beyond my own beliefs. Far beyond the now.
Beyond helping a person cut out refined foods, sugar and weight loss. I am thinking way into their future.
Likewise, will telling this client that ‘the soft drink you are drinking may cause cancer‘ (which you see ALL over facebook) lead them to develop psychological problems? Yes, possibly.
You tell someone they are doing something wrong, or you incite fear of death into a person, and this can have dire psychological consequences leading to anxiety, depression and eating disorders and nutrition professionals have to study psychology at university for this reason.
So, I weigh up the risks. Is this person already stressed and anxious about their health? What else is going on in their life. Will telling them that the one glass of coke zero they have every second day, help or hinder them? Is telling them to cut out the coke zero a conversation that can wait for our session next month, when they have finalised their divorce?
And yet you see all over social media, anger against the qualified people giving advice. “My friend saw a dietitian/nutritionist and she said that he could keep drinking coke zero. How ridiculous is that! She’s obviously clueless and probably paid off by Coke.”
Little do they know that that qualified person has considered much more than just the aspartame in Coke. Their knowledge extends far beyond reading on google that coke zero is bad for you. They have told the patient to cut down on salt, chocolate, meat and three other things and they know that also telling them to quit coke zero in that consultation will tip them over the edge and make it all too hard for the patient to make any change at all.
I see those same unqualified people that discredit nutrition professionals blasting messages to their followers about the brain tumors you will grow if you drink coke zero. The pus and hormones in milk. That fruit will make you fat. I see the shame they make people feel for not following a perfect life and diet, as they do. The shame they make people feel. The psychological harm that they can cause can be worse than the actual foods they are telling us all not to eat.
The frightening thing is, they don’t realise they are doing it. They know what they know about nutrition and have no concept of how much they don’t know. They blast us with all the bad foods to avoid and this is of course is seen by the public as new and exciting information.
But knowing which foods not to eat, is not a sign of how knowledgeable one is about nutrition
Pete Evans advocates heavily for a certain diet, touting it as the ONLY way to eat. This type of diet is very expensive to follow using only organic ingredients, grass fed meat (twice the price of normal meat) and the only oil you can use is expensive coconut oil. This is fine if you are on his level of income. Fine if you have a steady job, a stable home, access to fresh foods. But the reality is, most people don’t. In Australia, 2,548,496 people (13.9%) live below the poverty line, and sadly, this group are most at risk of developing nutrition related diseases such as heart disease, obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. In central Australia it costs $10 for a lettuce.
So John, who is on minimum wage and has bills coming out of his ears, reads constantly in the media that this new diet using coconut oil and grass-fed-only meat is the ONLY way to be healthy. That all other ways of eating are not healthy, that legumes are bad, that grains will cause all sorts of disease. That the one slice of wholegrain bread that he has for lunch is bad (He recently switched from 4 slices of white to one slice of wholegrain). He can’t afford to eat this ‘new healthy’ way and it’s all very confusing.
After his latest
So, he gives up. It’s all too hard. “Well I can’t afford to eat healthily, what’s the use of trying.”
You may think I’m making this up, but I am not. THIS is reality.
The same celebrity advocates for quitting major food groups which have shown to have nutritional benefits and are proven time and time again to help prevent diseases such as cancer and heart disease. There is a potential for nutrient deficiencies to develop following this diet, particularly in children.
And the latest DIY baby formula saga? Well, anyone who wishes to publish a recipe containing 10 times the upper limit of Vitamin A (a dose that can be fatal to babies), despite being warned by people who have a gabillion times his nutrition knowledge (people with an actual qualification that is) isn’t clever. They are just plain stupid.
A popular raw food cook published a recipe containing raw bamboo shoots. He claims he is a ‘Digestive Health Specialist.’ A shame that his apparent specialisation hasn’t taught him that raw bamboo shoots contain cyanide which can also be fatal.
Sarah Wilson urges us to quit sugar and provides a list of ‘good and bad’ fruit, claiming that some fruits are too high in fructose (the natural fruit sugar) and will cause obesity. Cutting out fruit is not based on science whatsoever.
By all means, we should be cutting out refined sugars and learning where sugars are hidden in our processed food, but demonising fruit is a very simplistic view of nutrition. Fruit has shown in countless well designed studies, to be protective against cancer due to the fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Let’s be clear that the fructose in whole fruit is much different to High Fructose Corn Syrup (which has been linked to obesity).
How does this celebrity know that by recommending that we don’t eat fruit, that she is not increasing our risk of developing cancer? She doesn’t. The thought and knowledge has only extended to helping people lose weight. Which, by the way, I have done many consultations where clients have followed this way of ‘sugar-free’ eating and they have put on weight. Instead of going for a mango (celebrity says to avoid) they reach for calorie laden choc mousse full of coconut cream and rice malt syrup (which is still a sugar) because celebrity claims it is sugar free.
The same celebrity advocates for drinking raw milk. This has upset me for quite sometime, because the risks of drinking raw milk are never discussed in the articles. The risks are death, and recently a three year old boy died from allegedly drinking raw milk. When providing nutrition information, the pros and cons should always be outlined (particularly if they can cause death one would think?) But the knowledge of biochemistry, pathophysiology, microbiology is just not there to even know of the risks to be able to pass on to her audience.
Fear mongering increases popularity
Fear mongering is rife. It sells books, eating plans, and gets you on TV. Because going against the norm, makes them appear knowledgeable. It conveys a sense that they have done extensive research and are ‘exposing the truth.’ But in fact, it is the exact opposite, and highlights their lack of knowledge.
Anyone who has studied nutrition (at reputable institutions) is held accountable for the information they give. They are in BIG trouble if the information they give is incorrect and causes harm. So why can someone who hasn’t studied nutrition, give health advice without being held accountable.
Both of these celebritites make money from the nutrition advice they give. It’s their business. So should they not be expected that that information be 100% accurate and will not cause harm, just like any nutrition professional? Pete Evans now has a disclaimer under every one of his Facebook posts
Pete Evans does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) as to the accuracy or completeness of the information set out on this page, and shall not have any liability for any misrepresentation (express or implied) contained in, or for any omissions from, the information on this page.
In other words he’s stating: I can give nutrition advice to 500,000 followers but will not be held accountable for if it is wrong.
I know personally he (yes, banned) many qualified professionals from posting on his page, who have simply offered a different point of view to his or questioned his sources of information that he is providing. I can’t even begin to put into words how unprofessional and unethical this is, and is another reason why I and many others feel the need to speak up.
I don’t doubt that such celebrities in the health industry have a deep passion for helping people live a healthy life. I honestly applaud them for this. Society can all do with some fresher food, less take-away and more fruit and veg. But it’s not enough to simply have a passion for the subject of nutrition and want to educate people to their way of eating. Their personal views need to be put aside, for the good of the people.
So why do I feel the need to write this article? Because celebrities such as those mentioned here and more, are constantly publicly bad-mouthing the work of qualified professionals. And yet, despite us professionals witnessing the harm that dangerous nutrition advice can cause, we don’t say anything as we don’t wish to bad mouth others. Further, it’s the actual professionals that have to treat the people who have tried diets and developed illness, weight gain or as I’m seeing more and more – the psychological disorders and fear of foods that develop. So it’s time for the professionals to start standing up for ourselves.
Even with all the study I have done ( A four year very difficult science degree), I STILL don’t know enough about nutrition. But at least I know that. I know what I don’t know. These celebrities have been taught or have read 30 things about nutrition, and aren’t even aware of the 30,000 other things they don’t know about nutrition. And that’s frightening.
The truth is, not everyone is a nutrition expert. Just like I’m not an expert pilot just because I’ve been flying on a plane since I was 7. Just like I’m not a dentist, despite cleaning my teeth every day. I also drive a car every day for the past 15 years but it doesn’t make me a driving expert.
I must say, there are many great social media accounts that don’t hold qualifications and very good at inspiring a healthy life. The difference being they know where to draw the line. Just like Jamie Oliver, they inspire and share without professing to be an expert or using fear. And that’s the difference.
So when reading nutrition information, always look at the source. What qualifications do they hold?
And remember this
- A professional won’t judge or shame
- Won’t tell you to eat their way
- Won’t tell you all the bad things you are doing
- Won’t scare you into eating healthily
- Will not make you feel guilty
Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, I’m not saying that anyone who follows the Pete Evans or Sarah Wilson diet is an idiot. Not at all. There are elements of their advice which is wonderful. It is not an attack on the paleo way of eating.
And please remember the main reason I wrote this article is due to the the large amount of eating disorders and illness that I am witnessing, as a direct result of information given by unqualified nutrition ‘experts.’ If you were witnessing it the way I am, and having to actually be the one to try and fix it, as I am, you would likely feel the need to speak out too.
Thank you for reading
The Nutrition Guru is a university qualified Nutritionist, keen cook and all round myth buster. She cares passionately about advocating for holistic health and providing credible and up to date nutrition information in order for people to make their own educated decision about nutrition.