Pete Evans, Sarah Wilson and some international speakers were involved in the recent series of Low Carb Downunder presentations. It was a very slick exercise. And very expensive, but who footed the bill?
In August and September the Low Carb Downunder road show came to Sydney and Melbourne. I went along to the Sydney presentation and was certainly impressed by the organisation of the event. Great venue, a big audience, big celebrities and an international speaker – the Melbourne program had three!
Pete Evans is quite a performer. He moved confidently around the stage engaging his lay audience with his passion for The Paleo Way of eating and they lapped it up. If you have ever seen one of those American motivational speakers at work and their star struck audiences hanging off every word, it was a bit like that.
But something was not quite right. The usual rhythm of things is that nutrition professors sell nutrition messages and celebrities sell products. So what were these celebrity presentations on nutrition all about?
It looked like market preparation to me, but for what? And who is behind it?
Who signed the cheque?
No sponsor of Low Carb Downunder was mentioned on either the program or at the event itself. With such lavish organisation, big name celebrities and associated public relations the cost of the road show would have been considerable – my guess is about $120,000. So someone wrote a big cheque, but who? If the exercise was altruistic why the secrecy?
A more extensive series of Low Carb Downunder presentations is planned for November. Another big cheque to be signed but still the sponsor remains undisclosed.
At scientific meetings sponsors are always declared, which reinforces my view that the whole exercise has nothing to do with nutrition or health and everything to do with marketing.
Seeing Catalyst in a new light
With such deep pockets those orchestrating this exercise have the sort of reach that nutritionists can only dream of.
Last year, the ABC’s science program Catalyst ran a series of controversial programs with three key messages – sugar is toxic, saturated fat is fine and the whole cholesterol/heart health story is a myth. Is it a coincidence that the content of these programs closely mirrors the agenda of Low Carb Downunder? Maryanne Demasi, the journalist who produced and presented the Catalyst programs, was actually on the Sydney program of Low Carb Downunder but failed to show up on the night.
Those three catalyst programs are now starting to look like an impressive public relations exercise. Unfortunately for the ABC, it came at a considerable cost – the reputation of Catalyst was laid to waste in the process.
Investigative journalism needed
Catalyst let the general public down. Let’s hope that journalists from other media outlets will now take a good look at the celebrity-driven, PR-savvy low carb movement and actually ask some hard questions.
The obvious question about Low Carb Downunder is: who’s funding it?