The Noakes, Banting Tweet, ADSA, HSPC saga – the plot thickens!
The nutrition gloves have come off again. This time it looks suspiciously like Big Food in general and Kellogg in particular squaring up through its dietitian proxies against emeritus University of Cape Town professor Tim Noakes and low-carb, high-fat (LCHF), writes Marika Sboras of BizNews.com.
SO, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is investigating Prof Tim Noakes for “unprofessional conduct”. You could be forgiven for thinking Noakes has gone nuts and done something really, really bad.
After all, the HPCSA has so far reserved that charge for doctors who’ve done something really, really bad to patients – sexually abused them, exploited them financially, caused physical or mental harm, disfigured or maimed them for life, or in a worst case scenario, killed them.
Patricia Sidley, a Johannesburg health writer with an MA in bioethics and health law from Wits University, is no fan of Noakes. However, she finds it strange that the HPCSA has let the charge laid by Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA) president Claire Julsing Strydom in February 2014, get this far – given that its most recent, high-profile case of unprofessional conduct is against ‘Dr Death’, Wouter Basson.
Basson is the apartheid-era cardiologist who ran the government’s chemical and biological warfare programme. His “duties” included poisoning people with lethal cocktails of muscle relaxant and other drugs, on the whim of the ruling Nationalist Party. (The HPCSA is yet to decide on a suitable sanction against Basson. He got off all murder and attempted murder charges, many of which took place in Namibia, formerly South West Africa, thus outside HPCSA jurisdiction.)
The HPCSA in effect puts Noakes and Basson in the same category of offenders. Sidley describes that as “idiotic” – in slightly more profane words.
But back to Noakes’ alleged “unprofessional conduct”.
It can seem anticlimactic to say he tweeted his opinion in response to a mother’s question on best foods to wean her infant. Did Noakes advise the mother to give the infant poison – drip-feed unrefined sugar (that spikes the hormone insulin), or undiluted fresh fruit juice (that’s high in liver-straining fructose) straight into the baby’s veins? No. He advised low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) foods that include meat, full-fat dairy and veg – and not to give cereal.
Therein probably lie the two nutritional rubs at the heart of Strydom’s (left) charge : Firstly, she and ADSA members, dietetic associations worldwide, and the multinational cereal and other food companies that sponsor them, aggressively promote cereal for infant weaning, despite evidence showing it mostly makes babies fat.
It is advice dietitians have disseminated globally for decades, based on official dietary guidelines. The same high-carb, low-fat, guidelines British obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe and US scientists exposed in a meta-analysis in the BMJ Open Heart in February as without a shred of scientific evidence when they were imposed on an unsuspecting public in 1977. The same guidelines fingered in scientific research as contributing to epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases sweeping the planet.
Secondly, ADSA and Big Food companies consider LCHF for infants, children, adults, or anyone at all, to be the closest yet to a nutritional antichrist. They regularly denounce it as “dangerous”, “deadly” and “unscientific”.
(For a different view, a one-stop source of the science behind LCHF, complete with references, read Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, by US author Gary Taubes, and Big Fat Surprise by US author Nina Techolz.)
Interestingly, no paediatricians in SA expressed outrage at Noakes’ tweet. And recently, the Canadian Paediatric Society, in a joint statement with Health Canada, Dietitians of Canada and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, issued the same advice.
The statement also offers the option of iron-fortified cereal, but Pringle Bay registered dietitian and ADSA member Tamzyn Murphy Campbell says it’s “suboptimal”.
“It is highly processed, high glycaemic index, often sugar-packed and contains anti-nutrients which can interfere with nutrient absorption.”
Murphy Campbell, nutrition editor and writer for Health Intelligence, who also works for Solal supplement company, is one of few registered dietitians in SA, and growing numbers internationally, who has embraced LCHF, including for young children and babies. She prefers not to call LCHF a diet, because “that makes it sound like a fad. It’s a lifestyle, a way of eating healthily.”
The most serious charge against a doctor
So what’s really motivating Strydom to see Noakes’ tweeted opinion not just as different from hers, but worthy of the most serious charge against a medical doctor?
I would dearly love to give her side at length here, but Strydom isn’t talking. Through ADSA’s PR company, Liquid Lingo, Strydom repeatedly refused to answer questions – including on links with food companies and whether “Banting” as LCHF is known in SA, has been bad for ADSA members’ business.
She even stonewalled questions with no material relevance whatsoever to her case against Noakes. Till after the hearing, she said, because the HPCSA has “advised” her not to talk to the media as the inquiry is “sub judice”.
I pointed out sub judice doesn’t apply, as anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the legal process in SA knows. It only applies in a court of law. The HPCSA is a statutory body, not a court of law. I also pointed out Noakes hasn’t been given that same “advice” by the HPCSA, and the HPCSA call centre told me, rightly, it does not instruct parties to disputes of this nature not to talk to the media because it can’t.
Sidley says sub judice is just a “refuge”, a “vague term thrown around endlessly by people who don’t want to talk to the press”. After all, even “lawyers are on air all the time talking about their cases these days”.
Oddly enough, a few days before I spoke to Strydom, she gave an hour-long TV interview, with top Johannesburg cardiologist Dr Anthony Dalby. Both described LCHF as “dangerous” and likely to cause untimely death…..
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