Sorry, But Your Fad Diet Does Not Cure Cancer Or Prevent Autism
Your Paleo Diet-obsessed friends are not the only ones taking to Facebook to rave about the importance of their new diet, or as they like to call it, “lifestyle”: Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans has posted his own rant to claim that non-Paleo diets cause autism and help cancer thrive. Evans, of My Kitchen Rules quasi-fame, has posted a 2000-word screed to his Facebook timeline to rant about the all-encompassing health benefits of his fad diet. Evans (who shockingly enough is neither a doctor nor a dietitian) insists in his lengthy post that the current dietary guidelines promoted by Australian health organizations are responsible for the increasing frequency of autism diagnosis in children; he also basically implies that hospitals are murdering cancer patients by serving them a dinner roll with their meal. Sorry, Evans, but while the Paleo Diet may be great for shaving off a few pounds or helping to build some muscle, it is not a cure-all for every ailment; and neither is every other fad diet to get attention in the last fifty years.
The Paleo Diet insists that adherents cut grains, legumes, and dairy out of their lives. I’ve seen it touted as a magic bullet for a lot of things from acne and gas to depression and and allergies, but Evans’ claim that it’s our non-Paleo choices that are responsible for the rise of autism really kicks up the fervency to a whole other level:
Why has our rate of autism jumped from 1 in 10000 children in 1974, to 1 in 50 in 2014, where do you think it will be in another 40 years if it is escalating at this rate? This has grown rapidly since the guidelines have been in place!
In 1974, another thing that happened is that NBC started broadcasting 24-hour-a-day news coverage. That doesn’t mean the continued existence of CNN and MSNBC are responsible for the rise of autism, and the adoption of Australian dietary guidelines around that time doesn’t, either. Besides, what do you think Australians were eating before 1974 that would have been preventing autism à la Paleo? Have you ever seen a cookbook from the 1950s or 1960s? People used to embed salads inside gelatin. It was all cheese fondue all the time, not some magical Paleo Diet nirvana.
For me, though, the most magical gem of inanity in Evans’ rant is his anger over the meals that cancer patients are served while they’re in the hospital:
Why are cancer patients in hospital recommended to eat foods that turn to sugar in our bodies from dietitians, when the most up to date science shows that sugar feeds cancer?
What in the name of Carl Sagan is this garbage? I don’t need the “latest research” to see that sugar feeds cancer. Of course sugar feeds cancer, because sugar is what feeds all cells. You will literally die if you eat nothing that contains or can be turned into sugar, whether it’s a Paleo-forbidden potato or one of their approved sources of starch, like broccoli or bell peppers. If Evans thinks that a Paleo Diet means there’s not a molecule of sugar inside his body, I think that he doesn’t have a tenth of the scientific literacy necessary to issue a coherent statement about how healthy his eating choices are.
There are some limbs Evans goes out on where I’m tentatively willing to follow him. I agree that Monsanto is a sucking, greedy black hole of a corporation, albeit more for ecological and economic reasons than health ones. I agree that whole foods should be made more accessible. And I do think that healthy fats are an important and often-neglected part of a good diet! But I absolutely do not agree that the latest fad is going to save us all from the scourges of cancer, autism, and, I don’t know, hemorrhoids. (Actually, considering Paleo forbids grains and legumes, it probably causes a lot of hemorrhoids.) If you want to follow a Paleo Diet because it makes you feel good or because you think it’s helping you lose weight, awesome: that just means more mashed potatoes for me. But you’re not convincing me when you tout your diet as a panacea … and it makes me wonder if the person you’re really trying to convince is yourself. It’s okay if you miss cake. I understand! Cake is awesome.