The Magic Pill And The Anointed

      49 Comments on The Magic Pill And The Anointed

As I wrote in my review, The Magic Pill is a beautiful film that shows how switching to a paleo diet produces astounding improvements in health for a handful of people.

So naturally, The Anointed want Netflix to pull the darned thing:

Netflix is being urged to pull a documentary narrated and produced by celebrity chef Pete Evans.

The streaming giant quietly released a show about the controversial ketogenic diet earlier this month. The documentary – which is narrated and produced by Australia’s best-known paleo – features several people who claim a diet high in protein and fat but low in carbohydrates can help alleviate everything from asthma to autism.

The Magic Pill came under fire soon after it was commissioned, with high-profile members of the medical industry calling for it to be scrapped.

Well, of course the medical industry wants it scrapped. The Magic Pill proposes that instead of always looking for a pill or procedure to cure what ails us, perhaps we should change our diets and avoid getting sick in the first place.  If people follow that kind of radical advice, it won’t exactly be a boon to doctors.

If members of the Australian medical industry believe The Magic Pill promotes incorrect ideas, they’re free to critique it. No one is stopping them. But that’s not what they want; they want to prevent you and me and everyone else from seeing the film in the first place.

It’s the same urge to stifle dissent we see over and over with The Anointed. Normal people are satisfied to argue in favor of what they believe and let others decide for themselves. I believe a vegan diet is unhealthy for many people (and I’ve had the sick vegan friends to buttress that belief), but I would never in a million years demand that Netflix pull What The Health. In fact, I applaud Netflix for offering documentaries that recommend very different diets.  That’s how a marketplace of ideas is supposed to work.  You make your case, I’ll make mine, and we’ll see who’s more convincing.

But that’s not how The Anointed think. The Anointed assume people are too stupid to think for themselves, so if they’re exposed to multiple viewpoints, they’ll be led astray – and astray, of course, means any course of action not approved by The Anointed. So The Anointed favor censoring “incorrect” ideas, as I pointed out in this post and this post.

Here’s a perfect example:

Newly appointed AMA president Dr Tony Bartone told Fairfax Media he was worried vulnerable members of society – for example, people living with cancer – would believe some of the claims contained in the documentary over the advice of health professionals.

For goodness sakes, don’t try curing yourself with food! Shut up and take your pills.

Dr Bartone said there were decades of evidence-based research to back up current healthy eating guidelines.

Boy, that really makes me mad. Back in my standup days, I’d spend dozens of hours writing a new bit, shaping it, rehearing it, tweaking it, etc., etc., all in the hopes of drawing a good laugh. And here Dr. Bartone says something that’s laugh-out-loud hilarious without even trying to be funny. Life ain’t fair.

Suuuure, Dr. Bartone, it’s because of those evidence-based eating guidelines that we have worldwide epidemics of radiant health and successful weight loss.

I’ve seen several Twitter commentators (otherwise known as idiots) saying something along the lines of Well, of course, we should listen to doctors instead of Pete Evans. He’s just a cook!

Dr. Bartone says pretty much the same thing himself:

“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.”

Ahh, so doctors are qualified to give advice on diet and health, but not a mere cook. That’s an odd argument to make, considering that the average doctor spends a grand total of about 24 hours studying nutrition in medical school. I’ve spent more time reading up on nutrition over a long weekend. I suspect Pete Evans has as well. In fact, I suspect Pete Evans has spent more time studying nutrition than 100 typical doctors combined.

The he’s not a doctor! argument is especially odd coming from Australia, where Dr. Gary Fettke was told to stop giving dietary advice because he wasn’t qualified. In case you need a reminder, here’s what ABC in Australia said about that case:

According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Two and a half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practise and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice, and he was ordered to stop speaking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet.

“The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet, such as the LCHF lifestyle concept,” it read.

So according to the AHPRA itself, graduating from medical school doesn’t qualify anyone to give dietary advice … although as Dr. Fettke pointed out, doctors ranging from neurosurgeons to cardiologists regularly tell patients what to eat, and nobody complains. I’m pretty sure The Anointed don’t really mind if doctors give dietary advice, as long as they don’t tell people to stop eating grains and margarine.

As for Pete Evans being “just” a cook … so what? I’ve met him. He’s a very bright guy. Why the heck would anyone need to go to medical school and learn which pills to prescribe in order to have an informed opinion on diet and health? This is the same nonsense we see when The Anointed tell us to ignore Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz because they’re “just” journalists.

According to my college degree, I’m “just” a journalist as well. I’ve never taken a single class in computer programming, and yet I somehow developed enough skill to write complicated software programs for Disney and BMI, who were happy to employ me. In fact, I was hired a couple of times to rewrite crappy software developed by people with computer science degrees. As one employer told me, “We were fooled by the previous guy’s degrees and Microsoft certifications. He looked really good on paper.”

The Anointed love to pretend that the only way to acquire knowledge is to get a degree – because they control the degrees. But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out in Antifragile, far less knowledge is generated in universities than most people think. A heck of a lot more knowledge is generated by tinkerers than by professors.

But for those impressed by degrees, it’s not as if Evans stood up in front of a camera in The Magic Pill and expressed his own opinions for 90 minutes. Many of the people he interviewers are doctors and researchers – people with degrees. They explain the theory of why a grain-free, low-carb, paleo diet improves health. Then we see ordinary people improving their health on that diet.

So what exactly is the problem here? What’s the big threat to health that Netflix is risking by showing The Magic Pill?  That people will throw away their Wheat Thins?

The only threat is to The Anointed themselves … because viewers might actually learn something about how to take care of their own health.

p.s. – The Magic Pill is distributed by Gravitas, which also distributes Fat Head. While I was on the cruise showing the final version of Fat Head Kids, I received an email from the acquisitions manager: yes, they watched Fat Head Kids and yes, they want to distribute it. They were a streaming-only distributor when they took on Fat Head, but now they do the whole works: DVDs, download to rent or buy, you name it.

That’s great news, but it means I’ll be busy putting together trailers, art work, bonus DVD tracks, and other materials they’ll need. I’ll probably be posting once per week until we’ve got it all wrapped up.


49 thoughts on “The Magic Pill And The Anointed

  1. Randal L. Schwartz

    I too have no “formal” education in any of the things I’ve made a living on for 40 years: programming, devops, QA, writing, teaching, podcast production, video production, and so on. It’s silly to get attacked by those with formal training, but I can understand why… you have an investment in all that schooling and it’s “unfair” that someone else can have an observation without that same background. {Sigh}

      1. Firebird7478

        I had 10 months training in video production at the county technical school’s adult education program. The cost was a $35 registration fee and $50 for books. I ended up working for ESPN along side college grads who paid tens of thousands of dollars to go to Ithaca, Syracuse, Penn State, etc. to make the same wage as I did.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I learned how to animate, edit video, mix sound and master music by watching courses on

          1. Firebird7478

            I used to learn how to use MAC Final Cut Pro. I learned more there than I did at the course I paid hundreds of dollars to attend with a live tutor!

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              The instructors are excellent. The show-and-tell method is much better than attending a lecture or reading a book.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          If so, I’m unaware of it. He was in the States interviewing people for a to-be-determined project.

  2. Robert Sterbal

    Thanks for expressing your point of view so well. I’ve shared the url a couple of times already.

  3. js290

    There is no money to be made in health. These professional associations advocating censorship sound like a bunch of fascists. The safety and efficacy of the “paleo diet” has been demonstrated by evolution, far longer than any studies advocated by the professional fascists..

  4. Lori Miller

    “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.”

    What if your GP can’t solve his own health problems? My cousin, an MD, was overweight and died around age 50 (I think it was a heart attack). My half brother is a chiro with a specialty in nutrition, and looked 100 pounds overweight the last time I saw him.

    I tell people if they want diet advice from a medical professional, talk to your dentist. I’ve seen about half a dozen in the past few years (accident involving my teeth, plus moving) and almost all of them were slim and trim. Spoiler alert: your dentist will tell you to avoid sugar and simple starches.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Well, the good ones do. We have a dentist in Franklin who sponsors a fair for kids and serves lots of candy. Nothing like drumming up business.

    2. JIllOz

      Sorry, dentists put out the same garbage that everyone else does though they do stress to keep away from sugar and soft drinks.
      BUt many of them – too many – are also stuck in their own version of being The Anointed such that their destructive, incompetent “treatment” ie physical actions on precious teeth that cannot be grown back -has caused me – and others – much misery and continues to do so.

      Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. You can admire someone’s erudition, work and expertise – if they have them – without turning this person into a messiah.

      1. Lori Miller

        My oral surgeon was into paleo and interested in what I had to say about it.

        I still say asking your dentist about diet–if you insist on asking a health professional–will probably get you better advice than asking an MD or, especially, a 200-pound, 5′-4″ dietitian.

        1. JIllOz

          And I say it depends on the dentist. And i say this through bitter, unwelcome and numerous experiences.

    3. chris c

      Yes excellent point! Witch doctor, I mean which doctor should I believe? “My” GP who has finally after a decade come around to believing low carb is not an instant death sentence and is actually good for diabetes? Dr Evidence Based down the corridor who may well be a great diagnostician (as I was told) and may well be good with acute illnesses but trots out the party line about carbs and fat? Or Dr Size Of A Shed who recently became diabetic herself but still believes cutting carbs is dangerous and has compromised by doing 5:2? Then there’s David Unwin, Ted Naiman and even a small but increasing number of clueful dieticians. Frankly I believe my glucometer, blood pressure, weight and lipid panels which have guided me in the direction of what actually works and away from the dogma. There are now thousands of similar N=1s, probably far more in number than the subjects of the studies this muppet holds in such esteem. And of course far more N=1s that show Conventional Wisdom failed dismally.

  5. BobM

    What’s also idiotic? The best advertisement for a show like this is to attack it and try to get it off the air. Create a controversy! That’s a sure-fire way to make people want to watch it. (Had they just ignored it, it would have been a film mainly for the cognoscenti like us.)

    I do wish this was on DVD. I started watching this on Netflix, but it’s pretty heavy to watch at night. With all that’s going on in the world, I need something mellow at night. We also are giving up our Netflix subscription, and the only way to get it is to rent/buy it from Amazon as a streaming film. I don’t really want to do that — call me a curmudgeon, but I don’t like things I can’t physically have in my hands.

    By the way, I’m still unsure about exercise. Like you, I had shoulder surgery, and like you, I inexplicably gained weight. To the point where I stopped weighing myself and got a DEXA scan as a baseline. Over 10 months, I gained about 2.1 pounds of muscle and lost 3.6 (or 3.9?) pounds of fat. So, I’m back on track.

    I theorize that gaining weight after shoulder surgery is the body’s way of adapting to that shock. Also, I don’t know about you, but my sleep was horrid for months after that. I had three different locations to sleep upright in, and I’d rotate through them. The body is a system, and sleep is one part of that system. The lack of any exercise didn’t help, either (assuming exercise has any effect). I didn’t exercise at all for over a month, and then gingerly added in exercise. It’s about a 6+ month process.

    I’ve also added one more day of exercise in, now. Has it helped? It’s hard to tell. I’m also trying to fast more frequently. Fasting seems to really help me, especially to lower fasting insulin. So, I’m making too many changes to determine the effect of just exercise.

    I get another DEXA scan in a few weeks. This will be after only 2 months, so I’m not so hopeful of the results, but I paid for three of them (within a year), so I’ll get three of them.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I suspect the weight gain was part of the healing process as well.

      I’m pretty sure The Magic Pill is available on DVD.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        If it’s on YouTube and wasn’t uploaded by Gravitas, it’s almost certainly pirated.

  6. Firebird7478

    I don’t know if this appeared in other markets, but our local news outlet’s “Health Check” Segment, which features an attractive R.N. (If I had a dime for every time she said, “As a nurse, I can tell you” I could afford to buy better Christmas gifts) who, several times a week, shares fitness and dietary advice for women on how to stay in shape. However, this past Monday, she did a story on millenial men and their “body image” issues. It was an opportunity to no only man shame, but take a rip at the vitamin and supplement industry. They put up a photo of protein powders, pre and post workout drinks, among other things. One of the experts, a urologist, was giving dietary advice and warning men NOT to drink those protein shakes because, “The FDA does not regulate them. We do not know what is in them, or the dangers of what long term use has on the body.”

    A urologist giving dietary advice and after what Tim Noakes and Gary Fettke went through. It really pissed me off!

    The station played it smart. They never put it up on their website or tweeted it.

  7. Kathy in OK

    ” I’ll probably be posting once per week until we’ve got it all wrapped up.”

    I applaud your success, I really do, but this supply and demand thing is driving me nuts. Is there a Tom Naughton clone in the works?

      1. Kathy in OK

        But you’re an original…..right? Yes, definitely one-of-a-kind. Broke the mold, and all that.

  8. Charles-André Fortin

    I suppose it’s a computer science thing to not be impress with a degree.

    Since the best friend of the programmer is Google. 😉 We have to search for everything. Your skill to find the right answer is more important than a formal training.

    As for the formal training in nutrition, I remember my ex, after 1 week of nutritional training as a nurse (VS 2 year of listening to every video about nutrition I can find on YouTube by researcher from source like the University of California, Stanford, etc) saying to me that because of my advice she’s gonna die and everybody was gonna die in the family. Because when we first meet, I was doing really well on a fathead diet (ketogenic close to primal) and I made here replace her “Ensure” diner, with more fat and protean and less carbs. That made her slimmer and it was easier to do then drink this crap.

    For god sake her teacher was the lowest level of nurse and every thing she says was what they say in the Canadian guideline. Juices were still consider a fruit at that time.

  9. Mike G

    The Magic Pill is definitely on DVD. I bought it and showed it to my high school students. So if Netflix does pull it, they’re too late! I paused it several times and we had great class discussions about nutrition, how animals are raised, etc. The kids learned a lot from the film. I also showed them clips from Fathead, Science for Smart People, and Diet, Health, and the Wisdom of Crowds earlier in the year, so they were primed for the discussions. Keep up the great work, Tom! It is having a positive impact on my students. The Health teachers are still teaching the Food Pyramid, unfortunately. They don’t like what I’m teaching, but luckily they can’t do a thing about it – it’s an independent school.

    Mike G

    1. The Older Brother

      Extra credit suggestion: show them “Supersize Me” and “What the Health,” too, to give them a chance to evaluate the science from both schools of thought and illustrate the difference between rhetoric and reason.


      1. Mike G

        That is an excellent suggestion. I will offer that as an extra credit assignment next fall. And I know my students will take me up on it!

  10. Dianne

    Just came home from a visit to a pulmonologist who nearly sent me into shock. She said that exercise was not the way to lose weight; that the only way to lose weight is to cut the carbs! I told her I was so glad to hear her say that because my other two doctors are still pushing low fat, high carb diets, and she replied, “That doesn’t work.” BTW, of the three, the pulmonologist is the only one who isn’t a bit pudgy.

  11. Trevor

    Speaking for myself, I’ve lost more weight ignoring my doctor’s advise than I ever have following it. I’m still not skinny, probably never will be, but I’m a lot healthier than I was a couple years ago.

    it’d be easy to dismiss it as conspiracy, but I think most of it is just unwillingness to admit an error. I’ve read refutations of yourself, Gary Taubes, and Nina Teicholz, essentially saying the same thing we always have. The biggest sign to me that it doesn’t work is that our obesity rate began skyrocketing the instant the low-fat, low-calorie diet became our official recommendations. By and large, people still believe it, even if it’s been increasingly challenged in recent years.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I don’t think we need to imagine a big conspiracy. As Milton Freidman said, people have an inexhaustible capacity to believe what’s good for them personally is also good for society. The grain producers, the statin pushers, the margarine makers, etc., etc. aren’t a bunch of evil old men sitting in a secret room and carefully planning how to keep us fat and sick. They have products to sell and likely believe their products are beneficial.

      The problem is that our government picked a side in the debate, and since many people believe (against all historical evidence) that government is unbiased and only cares about what’s best for us, that ended the debate for a long, long time. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote in Antifragile, centralized decision-making amplifies mistakes. The hearthealthywholegrains! and arterycloggingsaturatedfat! policy was centralized and ended up being amplified around the world.

  12. Kayla Hunt

    Just had a physical, and I told my Dr. I was happy to be losing weight. She asked how I was doing it, and when I said LCHF with IF (with some trepidation) she just said, ” perfect, don’t forget to get enough salt. I don’t think we need to do bloodwork.” She’s working on creating clinics for her overweight and diabetic patients to educate them on to get off their medications. Needless to say, I was thrilled 🙂 There is a grassroots movement among some Canadian physicians to embrace nutrition over medications – can’t wait to see where it leads.

  13. Firebird7478

    Just came down on LinkedIn…Tim Noakes’ won the appeal! The Anointed fall flat on their asses…again!


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