An Open Letter To Chef Pete Evans Following His Public Comments About Fluoride on Channel 7’s Sunday Night Program

Dear Pete Evans (@chefpeteevans)

I write in response to your interview on Channel 7’s Sunday Night program on March 27. I love the fact you’re raising awareness about the importance of eating good wholefoods for health and wellbeing. I like that you’ve managed to make it a hugely popular and trendy movement with some really positive quality of life improvements for those that a paleo diet suits, in particular. I’ve never bought any of your products and am not a paleo convert. But I especially love your shirt that reads “Food is Medicine”. I believe so too.

I’m a dentist with additional qualifications in Chinese Medicine — acupuncture, herbs, massage and diet therapy. A bit of a foodie myself, I’ve completed nutrition subjects from Nature Care College, Sydney, a macrobiotics course as part of a shiatsu qualification and I’ve looked at the popular Integrative Nutrition Institute content. I’ve worked in the healthcare sector for over twenty years.

Like Dr Matthew Hopcraft’s article in The Age newspaper today, I too am disappointed with the lack of substance backing your claims around the toxicity of fluoride in particular. The most notable high quality paper against fluoride that I’m aware of, is that from the esteemed Lancet Journal from 2014. It found a statistical correlation with neurotoxicity from fluoride at concentrations in rats proportionally much higher than what is ever given to, or accumulated by, humans. This statistical finding was not actually clinically significant. You could probably publish a very similar paper about most vitamins in sufficiently high concentrations. The reason relates to pharmacology basics 101: dose-response relationships. You’ve stated you’re a research man, google it.

You also state that medicos don’t have the knowledge to determine whether substances are toxic or not. Well, few of us are toxicologists to be fair, but we’ve all studied for many years to achieve the title, right and responsibility to learn how to reliably read scientific papers. We’re able to discern what is and isn’t safe to prescribe to the general public as a result. We’re generally the best overall cohort of professionals to regularly judge such things, as it pertains to human health. We don’t do it alone however, we do it collaboratively and stringently, using rigorous scientific methods and review processes. We also have a very tightly regulated industry body, AHPRA that ensures we don’t work beyond our scope of expertise. What credentials or expertise give you the right to criticise the entire medical profession and position yourself as more knowledgeable about this topic please?

There is something to be said for commonsense, I concur, however that needs to be firmly grounded in a sound ability to accurately interpret scientific data, in the case of medical claims. Statistics can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Do you really have that ability to discern quality health data with your skill set? Better than anyone with actual qualifications in a science-based health modality?

As a dentist, I know more about the effects of fluoride than the average medico. As someone who also has qualifications in complementary health therapies, I’ve been forced to look at the ongoing debate that rages around the safety of fluoride, as my dual modalities straddle both sides of the fluoride debate fence. Fluoride is a natural supplement. It’s found in naturally significant concentrations in black and green tea, and in many natural water sources — which is how it was identified as a supplement useful in preventing dental disease in the first place. I’d encourage you to re-read the article written by Claire Harvey of The Daily Telegraph about your claims back in 2015, who absolutely nails the essentials of this debate in very easy to read layman language that anyone can understand, with exception perhaps for her tongue-in-cheek labelling of table salt by it’s chemical name, sodium chloride.

To be clear, fluoride is not a cure for dental disease. It’s an adjunctive health-promoting natural supplement that is scientifically and clinically proven to be very helpful in preventing tooth decay primarily, with additional benefits for gum health. Similar to the purpose of vitamin and mineral supplements for general body wellbeing. I’ve seen the wonderful benefits of fluoride’s success over my professional career in many different demographic groups around Australia. I’ve never seen anyone with any clinical signs or symptoms of the purported neurotoxic effects that fluoride is argued to have, in my 15 years working as a qualified dentist. Nor have I ever heard of anybody who has.

I have sadly all too often seen when fluoride hasn’t worked. As do all dentists. It’s what keeps us in business. No amount of fluoride will help a person who does not proactively and preventively attend to the other caveats that contribute to dental disease, namely, diet — minimising sugar intake, oral hygiene practices — adequate daily plaque removal, done consistently over time. Without the fluoride however, I know for certain, that the severity of dental disease in those people would be far worse, and far more extensive and expensive to repair.

I have enjoyed overseas holidays and dinners out at fine-dining restaurants, such as those that you have operated in the past, off the back of completing major dental rehabilitation cases for some patients. They are more likely to have not used fluoride, have had poor oral hygiene, dietary and other lifestyle habits, that has resulted in unnecessary, completely preventable, catastrophic dental disease. It breaks my heart every time I see it. After 15 years, I continue to feel so emblazoned by it, I’ve actually given up clinical practice to start a business to help raise the oral health literacy of average Australians, by curating and creating digital health content for dental practice marketing and patient education. Check out my FaceBook or Instagram page @beFaceWell. I’d be most happy to discuss with you further any aspects of my content you wished to know more about.

You’re a great food presenter and celebrity chef Pete, keep doing that well. I implore you however to stick to your scope of expertise and leave the health and medical advice to those that actually have qualifications and true accountability to do so. For Pete’s and everyone’s sake!

Kindly

Dr Christine May

BDS(Hons) USyd BHSc(TCM) UTS

AHPRA Registered Dentist, Sydney Australia