by Colleen Tinker
Journalist Marika Sboros ran a two-part article on her website, foodmed.net, last month on August 7 and August 9. The first installment entitled “Medical Evangelism: A Hand Out For Bad Diet Advice?” covered the story of Australian orthopedic surgeon Gary Fettke’s keynote address at the CrossFit Health Conference held in Madison, Wisconsin, on August 2, 2017.
It turns out that Dr. Fettke, who has practiced orthopedic surgery for at least 30 years, has been advising his patients who have weight-related joint pain and complications from diabetes to switch to low-carbohydrate, healthy fat (LCHF) diets as a means of helping to manage their inflammation, pain, and post-surgical healing. His advice has been the opposite of the prevailing dietary guidelines promoted by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) which happen to be largely vegetarian.
In 2016, Fettke was silenced for recommending LCHF. This final ruling came after a two-and-a-half year investigation which followed an anonymous notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) that he, as an orthopedic surgeon, was dispensing dietary advice.
Fettke’s nutritional advice, however, was not impulsive but was based on much research of his own. It went against the prevailing national diet recommendations, however, just as it counters the current vegetarian recommendations in the United States and other countries. Stunned by the silencing even after presenting his evidence and arguments to the senate investigating committee, Fettke determined to find out where the opposition to his convictions was originating.
Fettke’s keynote address at the CrossFit conference here explains what he has discovered. Marika Sboros says:
In the first of a two-part series, Fettke raises a taboo in nutrition science: Big Religion. He shines a light on its right arm: medical evangelism.
Fettke gave evidence to show that religious ideology informs and influences official dietary guidelines worldwide. It explains why nutrition science is the only science that many researchers don’t view through an evolutionary lens, he said.
It also explains why financial and other conflicts of interest are rife in nutrition science.
In short, Gary Fettke discovered the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Marika Sboros reports:
Despite being relatively young, it is one of the world’s fastest growing churches. It is also one of the most influential groups in the world on nutrition education and policy.
The church has spawned doctors, dietitians and scientists who perform medical evangelism. They do so without declaring their religious beliefs as COIs [Conflicts of Interest]. Therefore, they have made their beliefs into propaganda about diet and health across the planet.
Fettke’s research led him all the way back to Ellen G. White and her health reform vision. He outlines how John Harvey Kellogg and his flaked cereal inventions contributed to the current cereal industry and to the still-prevailing idea that grains are healthier than meat.
One of Fettke’s significant revelations is that the American Dietetic Association (ADA) was founded in 1917 by Lenna F. Cooper. Cooper was “a protégé of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg”, and “she wrote textbooks that lecturers used for dietetic and nursing programs around the world for 30 formative years.”
It was Lenna Cooper who appears to have popularized the idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day, and her dietetic leadership and writing established the idea of grains as the staple of a healthy diet throughout the first three formative decades of the ADA. (The name of the American Dietetics Association was changed in 2012 to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics [AND]. It is “the largest, most influential organization of food and nutrition professionals in the US.”)
Cooper wrote her directives in Good Health magazine which proclaims itself to be the “oldest health magazine in the world”. Good Health was edited by Dr. Kellogg, and Cooper transmitted his ideas to the American public. As Sarah Klein, the senior editor of Huffington Post states, “there’s no denying he had a product to sell.”
“Fettke showed how Adventists’ views on vegetarianism have compromised dietary advice and dietetic associations globally for 100 years,” Sboros states. These vegetarian, high-grain recommendations for global health have particular power because of their underlying economic and political implications.
Ever since John Harvey Kellogg’s day, Adventists have influenced nutrition guidelines “to make cereals and grains into the ‘sacred cows’.” To be fair, Fettke admits that “most Adventist medical evangelists probably mean well” and aren’t consciously trying to manipulate people with their advice. Nevertheless, Fettke’s concern is that while countless Adventist dietitians and medical providers teach their patients to eat vegetarian diets, they never see the need to reveal their own conflict of interest: they themselves are spiritually, not just medically, committed to vegetarianism. They do not tell their vulnerable patients that they actually have religious reasons for recommending vegetarianism and high-grain diets.
The vegetarian dietary agenda that has shaped current American and Australian (as well as other nations’) government recommendations not only perpetrates Adventist values on the planet’s population without actually revealing the religious motives that drive it, but this high-grain preference also boosts the sale of prepared breakfast foods—and these sales benefit Adventist organizations either directly or indirectly.
Marika Sboros writes:
From the outset, Adventists established close links with processed food industries, particularly the sugar, grain and cereal industry and refined food industry, Fettke said.
In the US, Seventh-day Adventists established around 100 cereal-based processed food companies. Many of them merged. Kellogg’s is the most well-known and ranked among the world’s wealthiest food producers.
White came to Australia between 1889 and 1900 to set up the Seventh-day Adventist church, hospital, publishing house, school and university. She also founded the church’s own cereal company, producer of Australia’s “most trusted breakfast cereal”.
“It remains one of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest and most trusted companies,” Fettke said.
Despite the benign-sounding name, Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing is a misnomer. Its highly refined, processed products compare badly with fresh, naturally nutrient-dense foods of animal origin.
Its flagship product is Weet-Bix, a top-seller in the breakfast cereal market. Cereal- and grain-based dietary guidelines have “done their business model no harm”, Fettke pointed out.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church also has the advantage of not paying taxes as a religious organisation.
Thus, through its business model, the church has “deep pockets” to pursue its nutrition beliefs, Fettke said.
What Caused Fettke’s Research?
In his CrossFit address, Fettle emphasized that he is “not anti personal choice” nor anti-propaganda. What he objects to, he says, is to others imposing “their beliefs on him or others.” By way of explanation, he referred to his troubles in Australia with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA). So far he has had three anonymous “tips” about him given to the AHPRA complaining that he was “advising his obese and diabetic patients on reducing sugar and other refined, processed carbohydrates to save their lives and limbs.”
It seems logical that an orthopedic surgeon should be able to tell his patients about the latest research showing the benefits of a low-carbohydrate, healthy-fats (LCHF) diet in reducing inflammation and speeding healing. His recommendations, however, go against the national dietary recommendations taught by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). These anonymous complaints resulted finally in the AHPRA slapping “a lifetime ban on him from talking about nutrition.”
Sboros reports, “Like its sister organizations, DAA is deeply embedded in the food industry.”
Fettke’s research into who and what are behind the attacks he has received led him straight to the Adventist Church. It also revealed many of the hidden rules of the game.
And, of course, knowing the rules ups his chances of beating those opposed to his views on nutrition at their own game.
Fettke showed how Adventists still routinely promote demonization of red meat and fat based not on science. They base their beliefs on the visions of one of the Church’s founders, Ellen G White in the US.
As a young girl aged 17 in 1844, White started having visions that became the Adventist teachings. One of her visions was for medical evangelism.
“We are to work as gospel medical missionaries,” White wrote. For her, medical evangelism was “the right arm of the message”.
Part of that medical mission, she wrote, was for disciples to set up hospitals, sanatoriums and places of learning.
White also had a vision about best foods: “Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator,” she wrote.
As Fettke showed, White’s visions thereafter became gospel in medical and dietetic establishments globally. And if you are trying to find the origin of medical “beliefs” then Ellen G White and medical evangelism are central to many of them, he said.
In fact, Fettke reported in his talk that Ellen White believed people who ate meat were “cruel and bloodthirsty”. The tended to masturbate, she said, and quoted her words about this “solitary vice”: it caused people to be as “surely self-murderers as though they pointed a pistol to their own breast, and destroyed their life instantly.”
He quoted White’s counsel that parents never give their children meat to eat and her also insistence that meat causes cancer. “We are still hearing that message,” Fettke said, “even though there is no science behind it.”
He further explained that “Adventists have continued pushing vegetarian and vegan agendas actively onto national health policies in many countries.” Additionally, “they set up their own processed food companies around the world.” Not only have they influenced the vegetarian/vegan agenda through national dietetics associations since Lenna Cooper first founded the ADA in 1917, but they have used their “media savvy” to spread their gospel of health through the church’s 62 publishing houses printing White’s health message in nearly 380 languages, while 25,000 “literature evangelists” disseminate many of these printed pieces door-to-door around the world.
In addition, the Adventist organization owns 853 radio stations, 441 television stations, produces 70,000 podcasts annually, and uses radio and television to broadcast their medical advice and vegetarian cooking shows.
Fettke’s point is clear. Adventism has worked hard to convince the world that Ellen White’s visions are correct. “That’s the problem,” Fettke said, “because we are not discussing science here.”
In other words, it is the weight of Ellen White’s “inspiration” that drives this grain-based vegetarian agenda. It is the Adventist religion that fuels the nearly-unstoppable efforts to publicize this diet. Significantly, in Adventists’ minds, the more widely this diet is accepted, the more Ellen White’s inspiration and credibility are validated.
This vegetarian agenda, Fettke points out, is not reflecting current scientific research as much as it is reflecting an ideology. Research is increasingly revealing evidence, Fettke says, that a LCHF diet has significant health benefits, yet the ideology underlying the vegetarian recommendations is so strong that science cannot break through the bias of those promoting the vegetarian cause.
Marika Sboros concludes her first article with these words,
Vegetarian groups regularly quote Adventist health studies in support of their cause, he said. Adventists do these studies on themselves, often publish in their own press and cross-reference off each other.
Fettke hasn’t read all Adventist studies. Of those he has, he hasn’t seen any declaration of ideological or religious conflict of interest.
He is, therefore, unambiguous about nutritional research to “prove a vision”. “It’s criminal,” Fettke said.
Fettke spent the first of his two presentations explaining how Adventist medical evangelism is, from his research and perspective, the engine that has driven the spread of a global vegetarian agenda. Marika Sboros reported on his second talk in an article entitled, “Lifestyle Medicine: Front In Big Religion’s War On Red Meat?” She explains that Fettke’s second talk focussed on “partnerships Adventists use to spread a belief-based anti-meat agenda.”
Fettke showed that Adventists have relationships with “extreme animal rights groups to the World Health Organization (WHO). It also now includes ‘lifestyle medicine’.” He also demonstrates that “Adventist medical evangelists established dietetic associations globally.” In fact, Fettke says that lifestyle medicine is a “potential front for serious medical evangelism pushing Adventist ideology.”
Interestingly, many organizations pushing a vegetarian agenda have moved away from using the term “vegetarian” because of its religious overtones. Instead, the term “plant-based” is being used increasingly to designate the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.
Ultimately, as Fettke sought to discover the sources of the attacks on him that resulted in his being silenced from giving nutritional advice to his patients, he concluded that ideology, not science, has been the primary force driving the current dietary recommendations that emphasize grains and vegetarianism.
Once he understood that, Fettke said that “everything became clear”.
“Myths become beliefs and if you keep propaganda going long enough, it becomes an ideology.
“Throw in financial gain and you have a major conflict of interest that influences policy right to the top.”
Adventists like to claim that vegetarians and vegans live longer. Evidence suggests otherwise. A 2010 study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, for example, looked at longevity across several US religious groups. It showed that the (meat-eating) Jewish population does better on average, Fettke said.
We must be clear that we at Proclamation! are not attempting to teach or to make a case for any particular diet. Doctors differ in their opinions about healthful eating, and there are countless studies done which apparently support vegetarianism, low-carb/healthy fat diets, and many others. We are in no position to advocate for any one of these.
What we are trying to show, however, is that a previously unknown local Australian orthopedist suddenly found himself being anonymously reported to his local professional watchdog organization and ultimately banned from using his own research into “into optimum nutrition to treat and prevent chronic diseases of lifestyle” to make diet recommendations which he believed would help control the symptoms and save the limbs of his patients. He was not selling a diet plan, books, or products. Neither was he inventing his recommendations but rather was referring people to a diet program which has a growing body of research behind it.
When Gary Fettke began to search for the source of his opposition, his research led him to Seventh-day Adventist medical evangelism with a straight line back to Ellen White’s visions, John Harvey Kellogg’s cereal inventions, and Kellogg’s protégé Lenna Cooper who both founded the American Dietetics Association and developed curricular and guidelines for it that were eventually adopted internationally among professional dietetics organizations.
Seldom does anyone without an Adventist background or other close connection to Adventism discover such a significant Adventist influence on any aspect of human life and health. Dr. Fettke, however, has no Adventist background. His is a story of simply tracing the impact of increasingly vegetarian national and international recommendations for human diets and discovering that Adventist ideology has played a major role both in developing professional dietetics associations and in training them with a vegetarian bias.
Moreover, Fettke’s perception that no amount of science or future discoveries will be able to change this bias is likely accurate. As he has said, this vegetarian preference is not driven primarily by science but by ideology and profit.
Fettke’s concern that the conflicts of interest the underlie the widespread adoption of vegetarian lifestyles in preference to a diet that reduces refined carbohydrates and includes natural, unprocessed fats and also some red meat likely touches a nerve that makes his opponents nervous.
Marika Sboros’s articles reporting this story are worth the time to read. They may be accessed here and here. In addition, Gary’s wife Belinda has created a webpage and blog which posts updates and background information both on Gary’s story as well as on the LCHF diet—since Gary himself is banned from speaking about the subject. Her website is here.
Finally, while our goal is not to vindicate Gary Fettke nor to disprove the efficacy of vegetarian diets to improve health, we do find in this unexpected story one more evidence that Adventism has deceptively influenced generations of unsuspecting people. Its health message, the “right arm of the gospel” that it acknowledged is its “entering wedge” in a secular world, has been instrumental in changing the world’s ideas of nutrition and health—and it has hidden its identity in the process.
Ultimately, Adventism has vindicated Ellen White’s prophetic voice, has funded and profited from its processed food factories, and has become a player in many international organizations designed to teach and promote vegetarian/vegan lifestyles—while hiding in plain sight. The effects of Adventist medical evangelism continue to creep more deeply into international humanitarian policies and recommendations, but the people do no know that they are being taught a religious ideology, not objective truth.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:6-8).