Exploring the “Lore of Nutrition”: the new Noakes book
Tim Noakes new book, Lore of Nutrition, Challenging Conventional Dietary Beliefs, written with journalist Marika Sboras, recently hit the shelves with a deluge of publicity, albeit somewhat overshadowed at the time by Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers. It lays out the whole story of his health professional ‘trial’, his demonisation and the astonishing treachery of his academic colleagues, and the scientific evidence that supports his conversion to LCHF as the answer to the global pandemic of lifestyle diseases. This review by Icelandic cardiologist, Axel F Sigurdsson MD, PhD, FACC.
FOR THE last few days, my Kindle has been my closest companion.
“What are you reading”? my wife asked. “I’m reading Lore of Nutrition.”
“Ooh, I was sure it was a thriller or one of your crime stories.”
In fact, she was right. Although Lore of Nutrition is a book about nutrition, it reads like a novel. The omertà, the courtroom drama, the hero and the villain (lots of them). Lore of Nutrition has it all.
And, if you’re a cardiologist, the book may read like a Stephen King horror story. However, this time, the horror is real. You’ll just have to hope for a happy ending.
Of course, Lore of Nutrition is not the first book to challenge accepted medical and scientific dogma. But, it rises above most of them due to its reliance on scientific evidence, its honesty, and bravery.
Apart from being a book about nutrition, it is a fascinating story about a man fighting for his credibility and beliefs and his right speak out to the public.
Lore of Nutrition
Lore Of Nutrition is co-authored by two South Africans; sports scientist Professor Tim Noakes and journalist Marika Sboros.
In the preface, Professor Noakes summariaes his background as a doctor and scientist. And what a distinguished career it is. Of course, one might wonder why he has to recapitulate it in such detail. However, when reading on, one learns why he is forced to underscore his credibility.
Tim Noakes has all the characteristics of an opinion maker. His charisma and ability to speak out and explain will make most of us want to listen.
Noakes describes his “Damascene moment”: “It happened after I came face to face with compellingly robust evidence that contradicted everything I believed was true about optimum nutrition to treat and prevent serious diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.”
Noakes challenges two deeply held dogmas: “the role of carbohydrate in nutrition and the diet-heart hypothesis that saturated fat causes heart disease”.
Unfortunately, Noakes learned that the results of his choice to admit his errors and try to correct them would be brutal for himself and his family, “beyond anything that he possibly could have imagined.”
Lore of Nutrition has three main parts.
The first part is about the low-carb revolution in South Africa and Noakes’s first experience with a low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diet. It covers, among other things, the 2015 Low-Carb Summit in Cape Town, the so-called UCT Professor’s letter, The Naudé Review, and “The Banting for Babies Tweet” which sparked the now famous Noakes Trial.
The second part covers the trial that was spread over three years, the hearing, the closing arguments and the verdict.
The third part summarises essential scientific evidence supporting the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) dietary plan.
Noakes now claims the evidence for the LCHF dietary model is the “best evidence-based model of modern human nutrition. Conversely, the low-fat, high-carb (LFHC) “prudent”, “balanced” diet promoted by most health authorities, and religiously taught at all South African medical schools is at best not evidence-based, at worst completely wrong and extremely harmful because it has caused the obesity and type-2 diabetes epidemic.”
Why does Tim Noakes have so many powerful enemies?
For an outsider, it is hard to understand why Tim Noakes has so many powerful enemies in his home country and why they believe it’s so important to demolish him. Why do the medical and dietic professional societies in South Africa (HPSCA and ASDA) go to such great lengths to shut him down? After all it’s just a scientific debate, isn’t it?
Of course, Noakes has expressed opinions that conflict with those taught at the universities. He believes that “the function of universities is to advance knowledge, not to insulate professorial opinions from external scrutiny and thus institutionalize what he calls the power of the anointed.”
He writes: “I believe the very reason why universities exist is because we do not (yet) know everything. If we did, we would have no reason to invest so much in costly institutions.”
Noakes also claims the low-fat diet that has been highly promoted for decades is the most likely cause of the epidemic of obesity and type-2 diabetes. He writes: “It is difficult for those who have advocated this fallacy for the past 40 years to suddenly find the courage to acknowledge and apologize for their gross error.”
Or is it Noakes’s methods and how he reaches out to the public that is the problem? Is using social media inappropriate for medical professionals and scientists?
When covering the 2015 Low-Carb summit, Marika Sboros mentions that one of the attendees at the meeting was Jacques Rousseau, a lecturer at the UCT Faculty of Commerce, and an active critic of LCHF and Tim Noakes. Rousseau writes a personal blog called Synapses.
Being curious to find out more about a Noakes critic, I took a look at Rousseau’s blog. It is about politics, science, religion, and rationality.
Of course, I was not able to read everything Rousseau has written, but his blog appears to be of high quality, regardless of whether one agrees with him or not.
There are 32 articles on his blog in the series “Noakes”. I wonder if that should that be defined as an obsession?
Interestingly, I found a podcast interview with Rousseau where he says about Noakes: “My criticism has always been about the tone and the approach taken in making the arguments but not about the science and the arguments themselves.”
So could it be that it is not about what Noakes believes is right or wrong but about how he goes about it?
In Lore of Nutrition, Noakes mentions that the regular headaches he had suffered from disappeared after adopting an LCHF eating plan.
He writes: “This is understandable if an allergy to wheat gliadin is a common cause of recurrent headaches, as cardiologist Dr William Davis proposed in his bestselling book Wheat Belly. Or if a majority of common headaches are caused by gluten sensitivity, as neurologist Dr David Perlmutter suggested in another New York Times bestseller, Grain Brain.
Being a Noakes admirer, I thought: Please don’t say this. Speculating may be fine, but citing such controversial literature is not very scientific and best avoided in my opinion. I wonder if that’s what Rousseau’s all about.
In a blog post addressing Lore of Nutrition, Rousseau writes: “In short, there’s no vendetta, and if there is a conspiracy, I don’t know of it. Some people (like me) just think Prof Noakes expresses contingent and as-yet-unproven claims too boldly, in a way that runs ahead of available evidence, whether or not they end up being proven true.”
In another instance, Rousseau writes: “There’s certainly a possibility that he (Noakes) and others are right. As I’ve tried to emphasize, it’s the tone and content of the argument for the conclusion – not the conclusion itself – that I’m addressing.
How will the cardiologists respond?
Cardiologists get a fair share of beating in Lore of Nutrition. The critic is specifically aimed at those who do percutaneous coronary interventions (i.e., coronary angioplasty and stenting). I guess it’s fair to mention that I’ve been doing these procedures for more than 20 years myself…..
Lore of Nutrition is a fascinating book. It contains a story that must be told and a message that has to be read.
However, don’t let the name fool you. It’s about so much more than nutrition. It’s about science, public health, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, diabetes, the food industry, the diet-heart hypothesis, the pharmaceutical industry, obesity, social media, politics, corruption and academic bullying.
Noakes’s knowledge, passion, and courage allow him to write in a ruthless manner that is shockingly revealing. Of course, this may be too much and too bold for some of his peers.
Clearly, Noakes can’t be right about everything, but he certainly deserves to be listened to.
Marika Sboros’ contribution adds to the diversity of the book. Her coverage of the Noakes trial strengthens the storyline and makes the book unique.
It is quite clear that Lore of Nutrition will not help Tim Noakes make peace with his enemies. However, he might make some new friends.
We won in the end, says Noakes
It’s been a brutal three years for one of South Africa’s best-known scientists – and it’s still not over. Dr Tim Noakes has been vilified and disowned. He’s been betrayed by people he once considered close collaborators and friends for, as he wryly puts it, changing his diet.
The man who taught runners how to run, who gave Lewis Pugh the scientific assurance that he could swim in sub-zero waters wearing only a Speedo and Jake White the confidence to rest players to the ire of Springbok fans, but then win the World Cup, found himself on trial among his peers for daring to go against accepted medical dogma.
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) charged him with conduct unbecoming a doctor. He’d answered a tweet by providing a generic opinion about breastfeeding and his low-carb, high-fat (LCHF), or Banting, diet.
That tweet was posted on February 5, 2015. It would take three years before he was put on the stand to be grilled on his views.
In April this year, the panel threw out the charge.
Noakes has no regrets. Not since his book about the entire saga, The Lore of Nutrition, has been published.
“It could have destroyed me, my marriage. But a week ago my wife said to me as she looked at the book: ‘It’s all been worthwhile.’ She’s incredible,” he said, his eyes misting slightly. “This could have finished us but, in the end, we won.”
He’s paid a huge price, though. His reputation as one of the leading sports scientists in the world has been tarnished.
“There’ll always be people who think I’m a quack. Others will say I won only because of a technicality. That’s the downside. The upside is that the publicity of the trial has been worth tens of millions of rand for the propagation of the LCHF diet.
“I was put on the stand for nine days. I didn’t have to retract a single thing. I’m probably the first scientist who has had to defend their beliefs under oath since Galileo.
“If someone comes up to me who has read the book and says ‘I still don’t believe in the LCHF diet’, I’ll say you didn’t read the book.”
The tweet was innocuous, but it took years to prove that.
Noakes wonders if the council wasn’t out for a high-profile scalp following its failure to call apartheid’s “DrDeath”, Wouter Basson, to account – that and the industrial capture of the medical profession by big business determined to protect their nutritional dogma and the economies that are underpinned by it.
“Six days before I even tweeted, there were e-mails back and forth between dietitians about sorting out the ‘Tim Noakes problem’.
“The HPCSA were highly unprofessional and unethical. They broke their own rules to make up this case. I’m disgusted by my former colleagues,” he said this week in Joburg where he was promoting the book.
“The current vice president of the SA Medical Association tweeted that I was a disgrace to the medical profession before the case even came up before the HPCSA.”
IOL.co.za: Read the full article here
About the book: The Lore of Nutrition by Tim Noakes and Marika Sboros is published by Penguin at a recommended retail price of R290.849 Views