Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people have taken up keto because they watched the Netflix documentary “The Magic Pill”. Australian chef Peter Evans was one of the producers. I had never heard of it or seen it. So recently I watched it and there were a number of takeaways that I wanted to share.
A long time ago before I found keto I remember coming across a strange news article. The article was about a doctor taken to court for advising a child eat fatty foods instead of regular foods. I vaguely recall that at the time I slammed the doctor for making such an irresponsible recommendation to this mother. I think I even questioned how this guy was even a doctor.
Then again a few years ago I remember the media beating up Peter Evans and his family for his outlandish paleo lifestyle. As a judge on the reality cooking show ‘My Kitchen Rules’ he was a nationally acclaimed celebrity chef. However, it was his strong views and comments about eating a paleo diet that caught my attention. Evans released a children’s paleo recipe book that was criticised by the media and health groups. In particular he provided a paleo replacement for milk formula which was smashed by everyone, including myself.
My initial reaction: mate you’re just a chef trying to make a quick buck on a trendy diet. I thought how in the world could this celebrity chef be crazy enough to overturn decades of science and nutrition used to develop milk formula? Without hesitation I labeled him a money making, hippy tree hugging caveman.
Fast Forward To The Magic Pill
Before I start I better give a SPOILER ALERT as I will be referring to sections of the documentary as I share my takeaways.
1. Influence on Indigenous Civilisations
It was interesting that the film starts by examining one of the oldest known civilisations in the world, the indigenous Aboriginals of Australia.
Their interview with the indigenous people of the land highlighted the following:
- The importance of the hunter gatherer way of providing and eating. Historically the Aboriginal people thrived upon the land and sea.
- With foods sourced from the nutritionally rich value of the land and sea, combined with their active lifestyles their bodies were healthy and strong.
- It’s well documented that the introduction of alcohol and diseases have horribly scarred generations of the Aboriginal people. However, the introduction of western foods has also brought dietary diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
- Members of the Aboriginal community were taken to a retreat where they were educated on healthy eating. They showed them examples of everyday foods and drinks that they were eating which were heavily processed, high in carbohydrates and sugars.
- Within the retreat they then reverted to their traditional ways of cooking foods that they gathered from the land or sea.
- During their time in the retreat they improved their health, returned to their traditional ways of eating and became less reliant on their diabetes medications.
On watching how the indigenous people of Australia were affected by colonisation, I couldn’t help but draw similarities among neighbouring pacific islands. Historically all pacific islands have had the same strong ties with the land and sea as their main sources of food. Although those who live in the islands maintain their traditional ties with the land, the introduction of western foods has impacted on their way of living and their health. Like the Aboriginals of Australia, Pacific Islanders now suffer from diet related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
2. Food for Healing?
In my ‘flashbacks’ I alluded to some of the negativity aimed towards supporters of the ketogenic diet. Recently there have been calls by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) for Netflix to drop the “The Magic Pill” documentary. The president of the AMA, Dr Bartone, stated the following:
“All forms of media have to take a responsible attitude when trying to spread a message of wellness,” he said. “Netflix should do the responsible thing. They shouldn’t screen it. The risk of misinformation … is too great.”
“I respect Pete Evans’ ability and expertise in the kitchen, but that’s where it begins and ends,” he said. “I would never dream of telling him how to prepare a meal. However, when it comes to the trusted health of our patients, everyone should turn to a health professional. That is, in the first instance, your GP.”
I understand Dr Bartone’s views to seek professional medical advice first. However, if I followed that medical advice and all it was doing was patching up the symptoms and not fixing the problem, why wouldn’t I look at other safe alternatives?
In each of the stories shared in the “The Magic Pill” each individual had revealed their illnesses and the medications used to ‘fix’ them. And although they were taking medications, they still suffered or had side affects to those drugs. The drugs were treating the symptoms but it appeared they weren’t fixing the problem.
Understandably the claims that changing to a ketogenic diet can cure cancer, autism, depression and diabetes seem very far fetched. However, a message I get from this documentary is that if all else fails medically, something as simple as changing the foods we eat could help to alleviate some of those issues. Isn’t that worth trying?
4. Close to Home
I teared up when I watched the story about the retired nurse with diabetes. She wanted to reduce her growing reliance on insulin. Her doctor recommended a new diet to treat her diabetes. The results were amazing. She drastically reduced the amount of insulin she was taking and reduced her weight.
Immediately I thought of my father who passed away early last year and also suffered with diabetes. Her story struck a chord with me. Recently I watched a video by Dr Fung about how diabetes could be reversed if people changed the way they ate. So watching her story was so uplifting but at the same time it was heart breaking.
My father for many years had been under close medical supervision for his diabetes and other ailments and was taking so many medications to keep everything in check. So the reason why it’s heart breaking for me is that knowing what I know now, I wish I could have done more to help my dad to reverse his diabetes when it was treatable?
Unfortunately it’s a question that I won’t be able to answer but sadly weighs on my mind. I understand that every case is different. I understand that my father’s medical conditions were probably more significant than the retired nurse. But it made me question my father’s treatment for diabetes.
In the end there’s unfortunately nothing I can do for my dad. What I can do though is share my thoughts to try and reach out to those suffering with diabetes. I’m not saying to ignore your doctor or stop taking your medications. Talk to your GP to see if changing your diet can treat your diabetes. Don’t wait until it’s too late and it spirals out of control, do something today!
Everything I have shared are just my opinions. I too also strongly recommend that you seek medical advice before changing your diet or exercise program. The following quote by Peter Evans was in response to Dr Bartone’s comments, he said:
“Modern medicine is fabulous and vitally needed as we do say in the film,” he said. “However, when 70 to 80 per cent of illness is dietary or lifestyle related, then should prevention be a considered approach?
“The information that is shared in the film by leading cardiologists, neurologists, doctors and scientists has prevention at the top of their priorities and [the dietary suggestions are] to be used as an adjunct to modern medicine.”
Yes, the documentary highlights real people stories that reinforce the ideals of the producers. However I take those ideals as encouraging everyone to eat fresh healthy whole foods, meats and vegetables to prevent diet related diseases. Essentially, their encouraging us to eat foods just as our ancestors did when they harvested fresh food sources from the land and sea. Replace the sugar and refined carbohydrate foods we eat now with nutritionally dense whole foods that our bodies need to be truly healthy.
Is it a documentary I would recommend to others? Absolutely, not because I think keto is the magic cure for everything but because it shares the benefits of healthy eating. To be completely honest I wouldn’t care if you don’t take up keto. But I do care that you review your diet to eat healthier to prevent diet related diseases. I can only imagine that there is no joy in suffering from those diseases. But I definitely know there is no joy in watching a loved one suffer from them. Don’t wait until it’s too late, do something today and make a change!