The Australian film has caused quite the controversy after suggesting that a high-fat keto diet is the answer to everything from cancer to autism.

By Faith Brar
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Photo: Netflix

The ketogenic diet has been surging in popularity, so it's no surprise that a new documentary on the subject has emerged on Netflix. Dubbed The Magic Pill, the new film argues that a keto diet (a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb meal plan) is the best way to eat-so much so that it has the capability of curing cancer, obesity, and liver disease; improving symptoms of autism and diabetes; and reducing dependence on prescription drugs in as little as five weeks.

If that sounds like a stretch to you, you're not alone. The film has raised red flags about the potential to mislead audiences that there is a "quick fix" solution to serious medical conditions, some of which have perplexed even the most educated and committed researchers.

The film follows several individuals and families across the United States and Aboriginal communities in Australia who are encouraged by the filmmakers to ditch their unhealthy diets and, instead, embrace a ketogenic lifestyle under the promise that it will help heal their respective illnesses.

Those people are advised to eat organic, whole foods, eliminate processed foods, grains, and legumes, embrace fats (such as coconut oil, animal fat, eggs, and avocados), avoid dairy, consume wild-caught and sustainable seafood, eat nose to tail (bone broths, organ meats), and fermented foods, and adopt intermittent fasting. (Related: Why the Potential Intermittent Fasting Benefits Might Not Be Worth the Risks)

Since its release, people have sounded off on their concern about the overall message of the film. Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Michael Gannon, for instance, compared the documentary to controversial anti-vaccination film, Vaxxed, and said the two were competing "in the awards for the films least likely to contribute to public health," as reported by The Daily Telegraph.

"I enjoy [the] emphasis on protein because there's no question that lean meat, eggs, and fish are superfoods...but exclusion diets never work," Gannon told the Telegraph. (To be fair, keto is actually not a high-protein diet. This is a common keto diet mistake many people make, though.)

While it's already understood that restrictive diets like the keto diet are difficult to maintain, people are still looking for weight-loss plans and fast fixes for health issues, and it's the latter part of the doc's keto claims-its ability to cure a slew of health conditions-that seems to be striking a nerve.

"There is no magic pill for anything, and saying a keto diet can cure cancer, autism, diabetes, obesity, and asthma is a bit overkill," one Reddit user wrote. "These people all had terrible diets before they started keto, so it's likely they would have seen some improvements in their overall health just by reducing processed foods and exercising more." (Related: Is the Keto Diet Bad for You?)

Other viewers took their feelings straight to the film's reviews section on Netflix. "What this documentary shows is how little people understand science and how it works," one user said in a two-star review. "This is a documentary about anecdotal evidence and theories. Anecdotal evidence is interesting and can lead us to explore important questions, but anecdotal evidence on its own is not 'proof.'"

Another reviewer mirrored similar emotions about the credibility of the film, giving one star and writing: "No interviews with food/nutrition researchers from respected universities, opinions came from chefs/'health coaches'/writers. Observational studies without randomized placebo control double-blind properly powered (statistical) studies. Not convincing to rational viewers."

Australian chef Pete Evans is one of the experts interviewed for the documentary who is raising some eyebrows. Despite his lack of credentials, Evans is seen in the film promoting the medical benefits of the ketogenic diet-and this isn't the first time he's been at the forefront of nutrition controversy.

A few years ago, he found himself in hot water for suggesting that the paleo diet is the cure-all to everything, including osteoporosis. At one point, his unprecedented medical advice got so out of hand that the AMA was forced to tweet a warning about the celebrity chef.

"Pete Evans [is] putting his fans' health at risk with extreme advice on diet, fluoride, calcium," the AMA wrote on Twitter. "Celebrity chef shouldn't dabble in medicine." With this background, it's easy to see why viewers would be skeptical of The Magic Pill.

While the documentary is stirring up a hot debate on an already heated topic, this isn't to say that the ketogenic diet is all bad or that ~some~ of the documentary's claims don't warrant further attention. While it's served as a way to successfully lose weight for some people, the keto diet actually does have a history as a medicinal diet.

"Ketogenic diets have been therapeutically used for over a century to treat refractory epilepsy in children," said Catherine Metzgar, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and nutritional biochemistry expert in "8 Common Keto Diet Mistakes You Could Be Getting Wrong." "In addition, clinical trials of ketogenic diets demonstrate that they can result in profound health improvements and medication reductions for people living with type 2 diabetes."

So, while following a keto diet may help you shed some extra weight, gain energy, or-in specific circumstances-reduce symptoms of some medical conditions, there's little to no chance it (or any other diet for that matter) is the end-all-be-all "magic pill" for health. If it isn't obvious by now, remember to always consult your doctor when considering a drastic diet or lifestyle change.

Comments (27)

Anonymous
January 29, 2020
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Anonymous
March 10, 2019
Hi, my name is Kate and I would like to share my story. Up until about 2 years ago, I was 30 pounds overweight. Over the years I had followed many different diet plans, but failed every single time. I was "blessed" with a pear shaped body and no matter what i did, I always retained lots of stubborn fat in my lower body. Everything changed when I found the right diet program. Read my story here ==> http://bit.ly/mydietstory
Anonymous
March 9, 2019
I think it’s great that we have opinion pieces debunking anecdotal evidence and scientific studies with appeal to authority and hypothesis. This documentary was incredibly controversial, unlike this article that has no links or defensive evidence against. This article puts question to claim.
Anonymous
January 28, 2019
Keto diet can be very beneficial if done right. What worked for me was this amazing guide on Keto Diet. http://bit.ly/2FlvH0Y Tells the right way of doing Keto along with recipes and diet plan.
Anonymous
January 13, 2019
Earum neque voluptatem nihil quia aut tempore praesentium nobis excepturi. 💖 Ever heard of the Keto diet? I started using the advice at WWW.KETOCOOKBOOK.ORG and lost 25 pounds of fat in a month! I’ve never lost weight so fast!! The Keto Diet really is amazing because it forces the body to always burn fat for energy — so you lose the fat and keep it off. If you want to lose some weight, I highly recommend using that website :) Check it out! Best of luck to you! 💖
Anonymous
July 29, 2018
The healing and weight-shedding powers of the ketogenic diet is all the rage these days.You're probably wondering if all the hype around the keto diet is ... well ... just a bunch of hype.According to many people who are already on The Keto Diet, it’s like rebooting your metabolism. The metabolic system provides the body fuel or energy to keep it operating. When you’re in nutritional ketosis, you’re burning body fat while still consuming healthy fatty acids. However, the keto diet may not be for everyone. Is it the right diet for you? Find out..... http://www.easyketomealplan.org/
Anonymous
July 22, 2018
Following a Keto Diet has given me great results. I found this recipe book very useful. https://bit.ly/2EBANEY Contains lots of recipes and meal plans.
Anonymous
July 4, 2018
Read the data sets and show me something besides anecdotal evidence. This doc doesn’t present anything that isolates other interventions. Oh what, a little girl changed behavior because you started requiring her to change her behavior? Seized activity was decreased after you reduced her stress cortisol levels by giving her the gift of basic communication? Yeah, we can all draw conclusions, but more than one intervention was introduced to that family.
Anonymous
June 18, 2018
I've been on LCHF/Keto for almost two years and it has been life-changing. A lot of ailments went into remission, like depression, IBS, and body pain. I'm not cured, because when eating a SAD diet it comes back. My blood work is great and I cruised through the winter without getting the flu. The rest of the family was very sick. My mental clarity is great and it amazes me what a difference it made. It has an impact what you feed children and cutting out sugary, processed food can only benefit. They will first fight you, but then move along. You start to wonder, is this my child? There is a history of Keto being a medical diet for epilepsy in children and a lot of adults following the Keto lifestyle have reduced or eliminated seizures or migraines. Can it cure cancer? There are many cancers out there and they grow for different reasons. My son had cancer and I would have not agreed on using a diet as a cure. However, I believe it can be a great addition to treatment and to prevention for the cancer coming back. The biggest benefit, and this is huge, I'm not hungry all the time anymore. This alone is a winner! I now can focus on other things in life than food.
Anonymous
June 13, 2018
The only conclusion you can infer from this movie is that high glycemic index carbohydrates directly cause cancer, diabetes, obesity and autism. And it probably directly causes heart disease, liver disease. Also please not I used the word carbohydrates which includes (glucose, fructose and alcohol). We already know alcohol directly causes cancer, obesity, heart disease and liver disease. I'm 100% sure this entire class of molecules is toxic to humans and should be banned. But good luck with that lol..
Anonymous
June 10, 2018
This is simple.........Keep doing and eating what you do and stay the way you are or try something like Keto for 3 months (really do it, not half ass) and see what changes. what do you have to lose..............
Anonymous
June 4, 2018
The medical community and the skeptics can say what they want, they have the most to lose. Going with a lifestyle change similar to keto completely resolved my ulcerative colitis when my doctor gave me a high carb diet and prescription to a $800 a month medication. I honestly believe he knew what he was doing in putting me on a high white carb diet, he knew it would keep the colitis going. He was really quick to prescribe this particular medication and he let me know I would have to take it the rest of my life. This new change is forever, I've never felt better. White carbs (rice, potatoes, breads) are evil. Cut them out before you try anything else, including signing up for expensive medications.
Anonymous
May 30, 2018
I posted this article as a link to the movie, "The Magic Pill", because I WANTED to post a divergent view. I don't believe there is a magic, one size fits all, pill out there, any more than I believe there is a magic one size fits all diet out there. But I believe int he science. The one line that resonate most for me? Why don;t we see fat animals in the wild? Exactly.
Anonymous
May 30, 2018
Explain to me how eating a healthy diet like the one described in this documentary is at all bad compared to eating processed, sugar laden garbage being shoved at us on TV, Social Media and from our doctors? Processed food is not in any way shape or form healthy. We were not designed to eat it. It is man made. The food from this show? All made from our earth. It's a no brainer people.
Anonymous
May 28, 2018
Did this writer see the same documentary i did?! i didnt see any outlandish-snake-oil-sales going on. Just some people who experienced IMPROVEMENTS in their health by changing their diet.
Anonymous
May 28, 2018
My wife was a diabetes patient since 2010 she was using insulin humulin N and R with doses of 10 and 8 respectively in the mornings after meals. Her eyes was weak she feels pain in her legs and feet she was becoming and weaker and weaker. On the advice of the Doctor she started insulin but no fruitful results was achieved,if not for Total Cure Herbal Foundation i dont know what could ave happened,visit their website or email https://totalcureherbalfou5.wixsite.com/herbal/contactTotalcureherbalfoundation@gmail.com this is the right herbal formula for diabetes.
Anonymous
May 27, 2018
At least there is an indisputable fact in the film. The Seven Countries Study conducted by Ancel Keys was not a scientific research at all. It was a cherry-picked, crafted paper. Why does US medical community ignore this fact?
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
Thank you! the pharmaceutical companies are probably behind this article.
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
It's so frustrating to see articles like this that discount multiple studies on keto type diets over the years. How about reviewing books such as Johnny Bowden's Low Carb Lifestyle, that does a great job of discussing various low carb diets and their pros and cons. Honestly, it's time that we start paying attention to the damage that has been created by decades of "Eleven serving of healthy grains a day. " I understand that pharmaceutical companies might go bankrupt if the majority of people got serious about getting the sugar and flour out of their lives, but really, how much longer do we need to believe articles like this, over real changes that can be experienced in a pretty short time in our own lives!
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
Once again a biased and ill informed journalist. I can't understand how they get published. To be sure a ketogenic diet is not a cure all but it is helping people feel better than they ever have. . I have lost my craving for junk food, my joint pain has been nearly eliminated and I lost about 30 pounds. My lipid profile is now excellent and my HbA1c is also great. Maybe I should consult my doctor with a limited knowledge of nutrition for advice. The Statin drug market is 900 billion. Diabetes drug market is also huge. The pharmaceutical, sugar and grain industries are losing business and they do not want people to eat a KetoDiet. It's about profits, not health
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
I don't get why so many "journalists" write about how keto is bad when the proof is there, we've seen it! No carb, no sugar...it will save us from a life of failing health.
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
The only "evidence" I have of a keto diet, is that I've been doing it for 3 years. My husband and I lost 90 pounds combined in a few months are at ideal weight and maintained over 2 years. We eat REAL food and are never hungry. Our bloodwork is perfect. Go ahead and doubt and we'll just keto on. Lol
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
Only statement...there is no profit in “cure”. Why not come up for reasons that diet is not a contributing factor. The more prescriptions given and bought, the more profit there is.
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
Yes the keto diet heals cancer, I can testify, my friend was told that was nothing else that can be done for her, that was was dying, all treatment stopped, and advised to be taken to hospice. She is 48 but she looked like she was 150years, could not eat, stand or really do anything, her CA125 was 3500, bilirubin 27 .Now comes keto diet, zero carb for 4days, she starts standing eating, then little carbs added,, juicing of vegetables and not 3weeks she was discharged, continuedo her diet and juicing, apricot seAs of last week her CA125 is 115 and her bulirum is normal and every other blood work is normal, so YES KETO CAN CURE CANCER, STOP GIVING CANCER PATIENTS SUGAR AKA CARBS , THEY WILL BE CURED...THANKS
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
Thanks for poking the actual proven health benefits into one paragraph at the end. Hopefully others that atent as biased as you will look positively on this and do more research from people that know what they’re talking about.
Anonymous
May 26, 2018
It seems like the second two last paragraph ruins your argument. Also in the case of the aboriginal people documented it was encouraging them to eat a more ancestrally appropriate diet, wouldn't that be beneficial to most people in regards to chemically altered substances?
Anonymous
May 25, 2018
Asking AMA regarding benefits of ketogenic diet is like asking butcher about inappropriateness of eating meat.