Dr. Fettke Cleared … Oh No, Is Common Sense Breaking Out?

The persecution of Dr. Tim Noakes drew worldwide attention, as it should have. I’m not sure quite as many people followed the similar persecution of Dr. Gary Fettke in Australia. Dr. Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon who began recommending a low-carb diet because he was appalled by the number of amputations he had to perform on diabetics. I’ve written about his case before, but let’s quickly recap with some quotes from an article published by ABC Australia nearly two years ago:

Doctor Fettke started pushing for changes to the food in the Launceston General Hospital where he worked and then criticised the hospital for a lack of action.

If you’ve seen what dietitian-approved menus look like in hospitals, you know why Dr. Fettke was pushing for changes. As I demonstrated in a post, the “heart-healthy” menus and even the menus for diabetics include awesomely healthy foods like pancakes with syrup (but no butter!), bagels, Honey-Nut Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch and Frosted Mini-Wheats. Your highly trained, professional dietitians at work, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway …

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

Of course the complaint came from a dietitian.

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 that’s where we were two years ago. The news this week was better. Here are some quotes from an article in The Examiner:

Launceston orthopedic surgeon Gary Fettke’s name has been cleared, two years after Australia’s medical watchdog cautioned him against providing nutritional information to patients.

On Friday, Dr Fettke announced that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency had dropped all charges and formally apologised for errors made in dealing with claims against him.

An advocate for a low carbohydrate diet, Dr Fettke was officially cautioned by the AHPRA in 2016 after an anonymous notifier reported him for recommending patients to reduce their sugar intake.

I’m happy for Dr. Fettke, who never should have been put through this nonsense. And yet, as I read the article, I was troubled by the realization that I ought to be happier. I should be delighted, in fact.

Dude, what’s wrong with you? I asked myself. Besides referring to yourself as ‘Dude,’ I mean.

I re-read the article and found the source of my hesitation to be totally happy. It’s this quote from Dr. Fettke:

Dr Fettke said the “common sense” outcome from AHPRA was what he had always hoped for.

There it is. The AHPRA finally exhibited common sense. When Tim Noakes was exonerated, the HPCSA in South Africa finally exhibited common sense. That’s great …seriously … uh … yeah, I mean it, it’s great.

But what if this is just the beginning? What if common sense starts breaking out all over the place? What will I do with myself?

That’s the thought preventing me from totally enjoying the moment.

For those of you who have never heard me tell the story, Fat Head didn’t start out as a documentary. I’d been doing standup comedy for years and loved being on stage.  But when my girls came along, I knew it was time to say goodbye to a career that required so much travel. Being gone for weeks at a time wasn’t good for them or me. I had to put my creative energy into a project that would allow me to stay home.

After kicking around some ideas, I decided I’d like to pitch a series titled In Defense of Common Sense. Regular guy with a sense of humor looks at issues of the day and applies some common sense. You may recall that common sense is a frequently heard term in Fat Head, which began as what I thought would be a demo episode. Then the thing grew into a documentary as I kept researching diets and health and realized much of what we’ve been told is a load of baloney.

So I never developed or pitched the series. But I still like writing humor, and I depend on people who have no common sense to provide material. I especially depend on academic types and officials in governments and regulatory agencies. Granted, they’re not the only people who lack common sense. But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Thomas Sowell have both pointed out, people with meaningful jobs who show a lack of common sense tend to get fired. Among university intellectuals and government regulators, a lack of common sense is often interpreted as “is full of bold new ideas.”

But now it appears that common sense may be spreading among the academic/regulatory class. Sure, we’re talking about a mere two examples so far, but I’m seeing a trend. As a humorist, I’m a bit worried. I’m imagining decisions that would normally lead to great comedic material taking a turn for the worse:

“Moving on, this part of the pamphlet describes the diet we recommend for diabetics. Any comments from the committee?”

“Excuse me, Dr. Higginbotham, but you’re saying our dietary guidelines recommend six to ten servings of starch per day?”

“That’s right.”

“To diabetics?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, Doctor, remember that section earlier in the pamphlet where we explain that carbohydrates raise blood sugar, and the more carbohydrates you consume, the higher your blood sugar will be?”

“Of course.”

“So we tell diabetics that carbohydrates will raise their blood sugar. Then we tell them to get most of their calories from carbohydrates. That makes no freakin’ sense.”

“Well, uh … goodness, now that you mention it… Hello, Jenkins? Higginbotham here. Call the printer and halt production on that pamphlet.”

Or imagine this conversation at the USDA:

“Wait … we’re telling people to avoid which foods, exactly?”

“Red meat, butter and eggs.”

“And we’re telling them to eat what instead?”

“Soy protein, margarine and cholesterol-free egg substitutes.”

“Because …?”

“We want them to avoid heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”

“In other words, we’re telling them that ancient foods cause the diseases of modern civilization, while foods that only exist because of industrial processing are the cure.”

“Correct. Oh … well, when you put it that way …”

Yup, an outbreak of common sense would make it tougher to keep the blog going.  But I’ll deal with it if I must.

If you enjoy my posts, please consider a small donation to the Fat Head Kids GoFundMe campaign.

42 thoughts on “Dr. Fettke Cleared … Oh No, Is Common Sense Breaking Out?

  1. JR62

    Don’t worry. It is not going to happen too soon. There is so much money for Big Food to loose that they won’t give up this easily. Empire will strike back…

  2. JillOz

    I wouldn’t worry about it Tom.

    There are so many stupid and incompetent “health” workers around who commit malpractice that even if they say the right things they still manage to cause serious damage.

    You’ll be getting material for decades to come. You’re dealing with humans, after all, not paragons.

    Incidentally that contradictory warning against carbs while recommending carbs issue was what sparked my puzzlement about official dietary advice years ago and made me wonder about the Diabetes assocation.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The contradiction in those two statements from the ADA’s dietary guidelines were so obvious, I can’t believe they ever saw the light of day.

      1. chris c

        From the archives


        Don’t worry, the more common sense breaks out the more The Anointed will be doubling down on stupid.

        Interesting that Gary’s pardon came soon after Claire Hewatt retired. In a region of the UK where I have friends, diabetes treatment was appalling, right up until the local chief endocrinologist retired (or died, I forget) and it suddenly became rather good. It’s frightening the influence of a single individual (and their acolytes) on the health of thousands.

        There are still a disappointing number of newly trained medics and researchers without a clue to counterbalance those that are rapidly gaining sense.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Yup, this quote is priceless:

          Currently some controversy about carbohydrates is raging due to a few new diet books. These books encourage a low carbohydrate, high protein and moderate fat intake. These diets are not in synch with the American Diabetes Association nutrition recommendations, which are based on years of research and clinical experience.

          So I guess years of clinical experience led them to say low-carb diets aren’t good for diabetics.

          1. chris c

            And at exactly the same time, hundreds if not thousands of diabetics in their own forum were achieving miracles in diabetes control. All these people had two things in common: none of them followed the ADA diet and none of them were studied. Way to not have any “evidence” – exclude all well controlled diabetics from studies.

            1. Walter

              They did the same thing with low carb diets. I was going to answer a survey some years ago until I notice my diet was excluded, belike because it works.

              Think of all those doctors who will be put out of work before they can pay off their student loans. If the lender insists on no discharge through bankruptcy, the lendie should think things through *VERY* carefully and exercise extreme caution.

              Oh well. We can’t afford to go on the way we are going or there will be people dying in the street.

  3. Walter

    Not to worry. Wurst come to Wurst there will still be plenty of human folly to make comic sausage from.

  4. Geoff

    As long as there is a big government, bureaucracy, and hollywood there will always be a lack of common sense. No worries the material will keep flowing.

  5. Tanny O'Haley

    I don’t think you have to worry about too much common sense in government. As Will Rogers said:

    “There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the entire government working for you.”

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, as long as we have an oversized government, there will always be officials who lack common sense.

  6. Peter

    Somehow I doubt we’ll be seeing an outbreak of common sense anytime soon. There’s too much money behind food for any sort of unbiased study to come out. Wasn’t there an article recently about how the main nutrition experts rejected the idea of a 3rd party review saying something like “where would we find an unbiased 3rd party”? (Of course, the irony that everyone else is biased when they are not was lost on them.) There was that study from Canada pushing grains, led by a researcher who gets a large amount of funding from the grain industry. I imagine any other common sense study would have similar biases and that’s hard to get past if you’re predisposed to a certain way of thinking already.

    We’ve had decades of “heart healthy grains” and “lower fat” education. That just takes time to overcome. At least most nutritionists tend to agree that margarine may actually be worse for you than butter now. 🙂

    1. Firebird7478

      If the Canadian government ditched grains for their dietary recommendations, the economies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba would go bankrupt.

      1. Kayla Hunt

        Yeah, we’d have to revert the land to grass-fed cattle instead of wheat and canola. Canola just seems to keep increasing in popularity – ugghh!

        1. Dianne

          Ugghh indeed! But would you believe that Weight Watchers counts 5 points for a tablespoon of butter at 102 calories, but only 4 points for a tablespoon of canola oil at 120 calories? They say they’re trying to “nudge” members toward healthier eating. Here’s part of what their literature says about saturated fat:
          “Saturated fat is hard at room temperature. So it’s no surprise it can plug up your arteries if you eat too much. What’s more, too much saturated fat ramps up production of LDL cholesterol — the harmful kind that has been linked to heart disease and stroke. While you don’t have to steer clear of saturated fat entirely, it is a good idea to limit it.
          Where you’ll find it: Beef, pork, cheese, full-fat and 2% milk, butter, cream, and coconut and palm oils.”

          And here’s part of what their literature says about unsaturated fat:
          “Unsaturated fats are your friends. Swapping saturated fats for these advantageous fats (especially polyunsaturated fats) protects against heart disease and may even help you live longer.
          “Where you’ll find it: There are two types unsaturated fats, mono and polyunsaturated fats. While many foods contain a combination of the two, monos are mainly found in avocados, peanut butter, and canola, olive, and peanut oils. Polys are a bit more complicated. On the most basic level you’ll find them in tofu, sunflower seeds, and soybean, corn, and sunflower oils.” https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/article/unhealthy-vs-healthy-fats

          I don’t think Tom needs to worry about everybody getting smart about nutrition just yet. But he can sure claim some of the credit for what progress has been made! And isn’t that great news about Gary Fettke? I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom’s posts played a part in that, too. There must be a lot of people like me who’d never have heard about Gary Fettke if it hadn’t been for Tom, but who got plenty mad when they did.

            1. Walter

              Normally when you body reaches room temperature you have or will soon have no problems in the world.

              Doesn’t everybody know that and that there is a reason our bodies and those of our close relatives store energy as saturated fat?!

            2. chris c

              The corollary is what happens when you pour Heart Healthy oatmeal down the drain. Imagine that happening in your arteries.

              Yes animals use saturated fat because at their body temperature it works just fine. Only plants from hot regions can do this. Plants from warm regions use monounsaturated fats (well to be exact animals do this too). Plants from cold regions have to make polyunsaturated fats, and to do so they also have to produce a bunch of antioxidants and things to prevent it from denaturing. At least fish have the sense to make Omega 3s rather than Omega 6s.

          1. Kayla

            There was a dietician commenting on the banning of trans fats from non-natural sources, complaining that they’ll all be replaced with palm oil. Part of her concern was environmental, which I’m sure is an issue, I’ve also heard that our demand for palm oil increases the prices in the countries which produce it – decreasing the number of calories available to the lower income folk in those countries. One idea that never seems to get any discussion is the thought of possibly using butter, lard, or tallow in processed foods. Heaven forbid we use any stable fats that taste good and can be locally produced! Not to mention are neutral or actually beneficial for our health. Common sense is far far away from becoming commonplace.

  7. Jonah

    Watch out, Tom! You’re slowly, one blog post at a time, writing yourself out of a job! Then again, the universe has a way of making people who have less common sense, somehow.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      If I have to retire someday because common sense has broken out all the over the place, I’ll accept my fate.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’m planning to do video blog pieces in the future. Not enough time in the schedule just yet.

  8. Orvan Taurus

    Don’t worry too much over it (stress, you know) as… well, I’ve explained it thus:

    You know of the barbiturate class of drugs? Amobarbital, Pentobarbital, Phenobarbital, Secobarbital, and many others? Those are but minor things. The most dangerous, and by simple observation likely the most common, drug is Seenosensatall.

    One attempted treatment is largely ineffective and generally illegal: Dopeslapamean.

  9. Stephen T

    Gary Fettke has paid a real price for his determination to do his job properly and help patients.

    When this foolishness finally recedes, possibly because of the costs of diabetes, he will stand in the front line of heroes who spoke out to fight such obvious and damaging nonsense.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Dern tootin’. People like Drs. Noakes and Fettke are my heroes now. They are perfect examples of people with skin in the game, as Taleb would put it. I listened to “Skin in the Game” and can’t quote from it directly, but he said something along the lines of “I’ll know what you stand for when I see what you’re willing to risk.” These men were willing to risk their careers.

  10. Lori Miller

    You could start writing about mental health problems among young people. Depression, anxiety and suicide are up among them, and things like safe spaces, helicopter parenting, awfulizing, black and white thinking, and completely giving yourself over to your feelings are all making it worse. Microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and social media obsession are ripe for ridicule.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Certainly. Even if common sense broke out among government officials, academics are still comically loony. Doesn’t seem to occur to them that telling 20-year-olds they’re victims and to deep feelz their pain might not be the key to happiness.

      1. Firebird7478

        I blame all those hippies at Woodstock and the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury. Their ideals, in theory, were nice. But in application, it turned this country into a bunch of thin skinned wusses.

        Plus, there is a lot to be said for the things Orwell predicted. Like someone once said, “1984” was meant to be a warning, not a user’s guide!

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          A lot of destructive ideas sound nice in theory. That’s why Sowell points out that The Anointed are swayed by “verbal virtuosity” and aren’t particularly interested in weighing the evidence.

          1. Firebird7478

            Yep. It is mind blowing how people have been programmed. As a kid, I walked to church by myself (without telling my parents) at the age of 5 (later CCD classes) down a dangerous, busy road, one mile each way. If a kid did that today, the parents would be arrested for neglect and child endangerment. Not only that, the parent themselves would deem it dangerous because we live in an “unsafe” society. I have a 12 year old great-nephew that my family pretty much has wrapped in bubble wrap because they fear for his safety.

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              These kids are going to become helpless adults. When I was in grade school, my friends and I regularly tromped off into the forest near our subdivision to explore. We swam in the nearby lagoon. We sledded down the hills in a local park. We built a raft and floated down the local creek. We swung in a tire swing out over the same creek. We did all that stuff without an adult anywhere to be seen.

            2. chris c

              Oh yes, me too. Plus I used to make fireworks. And I had a key to the house since I can’t remember when. Today I’d have been put into care and my parents would be prosecuted.

              And that’s nothing compared to what they used to do when they were young. Try blowing up a rabbit warren with calcium carbide (acetylene). His eyebrows grew back eventually . . .

  11. smgj

    Make something idiot-proof, and they will build a better idiot.

    I’m sure this situation is covered by a sub-set of Murphy’s law too.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I almost never type “LOL” because I didn’t actually laugh out loud. But that made me laugh out loud.

      1. Matt

        As I understand it as an engineer, the original statement of Murphy’s law was that if anything can be installed backwards, it eventually will be.

        Best 21st century examples that come to mind: Proton launch vehicle crash on July 2, 2013; Genesis landing crash on Sept. 8, 2004.

  12. Stuart

    The problem is that although Tim and Gary have been finally vindicated, in the meantime they have been put through the wringer with a whole lot of time, trouble, worry and expense while the people who made these baseless allegations have paid no penalty at all. What’s to stop them making similar charges against others? Nothing. The whole point about bringing the charges is to intimidate anyone else from uttering views those ratbags regard as heresy.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      They prosecute you with other people’s money, and you have to defend yourself with your own — or be lucky enough to have a brilliant attorney work pro bono, as happened with Noakes. Let’s hope they keep losing and eventually give up.

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