Tim Noakes review

Tim Noakes: The Banting Revolution continues to gather traction across South Africa

This article by Emeritus Professor Tim Noakes, two years on from the pubication of  the best-selling Real Meal Revolution, reviews the SA’s LCHF revolution and the groundswell of scientific opinion and new research supporting and further investigating the global swing in diet, insulin resistance and metabolic disease.

SO DESPITE the best efforts of the Association of Dietitians of South Africa, the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) and various eminent medical academics, the Banting Revolution continues to gain traction across the length and breadth of South Africa and across all ethnic groups, although it has yet to penetrate to working class communities to any great extent. But as I relate, that is also set to change sometime in the future.

The reason for the phenomenal success of the Banting Revolution in South Africa is not difficult to explain – this dietary advice works because it is the only eating plan that is based exclusively on our real human biology and our real evolutionary history. It is also the only “diet” that allows subjects to (subconsciously) reduce their calorie consumption, thereby losing weight, without experiencing hunger. The mechanisms for this effect remain uncertain but are likely due to removal of the hunger-stimulating effect of high carbohydrate diets. Carbohydrates, it turns out, do not satiate; they stimulate hunger (as subjects adopting the Banting diet will gleefully inform anyone who asks).

The Banting diet is also the oldest effective dietary intervention endorsed by the medical profession. Following Banting’s original 1862 monograph and in 1870 that of Dr Wilhelm Ebstein (the German cardiologist who took Banting’s diet to Germany and who is eponymously remembered for his description of Ebstein’s anomaly – the correction of which abnormality was pioneered by UCT’s Professor Christiaan Barnard in 1963 – another unusual Cape Town connection), it became the main diet proposed for the management of obesity by Sir William Osler in his iconic 1892 edition of The Principles and Practices of Medicine.

Since the Banting diet is the oldest medically-endorsed diet for the management of obesity (and insulin resistance), those who refer to it as a “fad diet” simply expose their ignorance of the nutritional sciences.

Instead the real “fad diet” is that which came into being in 1977 at the behest of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Perhaps the longevity and global popularity of this proper fad diet, which promotes the ingestion of 6-11 servings of cereals and grains each day, has something to do with the fact that the USDA is an organisation authorised to promote the sale of US agricultural products (not necessarily to look after Americans’ and the world’s physical health) and that the US is the largest exporter in the world of both grains ($9 billion/year) and so-called vegetable oils (actually chemically-processed seed oils containing omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and trans fats).

It would take government-funded US scientists of the greatest bravery and integrity to suggest that perhaps the goal of these US government dietary guidelines is really to serve US economic interests (in the guise of improving the world’s health which they have clearly not done).

To date not too many are prepared to state this publicly although the increasing realisation that grains containing gluten cause a range of other medical conditions in addition to celiac disease is beginning to be acknowledged by some mavericks in US medicine (and elsewhere). The idea that gluten is one cause of the “leaky gut” syndrome which some argue is the basis for all auto-immune diseases and that coronary atherosclerosis is one such auto-immune disease, is slowly gaining a medical following.

So what has happened in the past two years…….

Real Meal RevolutionThe Real Meal Revolution sets SA publishing records and goes international

Our book Real Meal Revolution (RMR) and its Afrikaans translation, Die Kos Revolusie, have sold in excess of 175 000 copies. RMR has became the biggest selling eBook in South African history and was Nielsen’s choice as South African Booksellers’ Book of the Year in 2014, in part because it provided an economic windfall for an embattled industry.

RMR has since been released in the UK and Australasia, as an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. The publication rights for Dutch and German editions have also been sold.

Interestingly no money has been spent on advertising these books – they have sold so well because of word-of-mouth testimonies from satisfied converts. Perhaps there is an important message here. Despite being on sale for more than 20 months, the RMR continues to be near the top of the weekly South African books best-sellers list. I am told this has happened seldom if ever in the history of the SA book trade.

The point is that what the book describes can no longer be dismissed by colleagues as a “fad”. The book has produced a fundamental change in the way many South Africans view food. They no longer accept without question, the traditional nutritional advice they have been given for the past 40 years and which has clearly not worked for the majority.

RMR has also stimulated a unique phenomenon on social media in South Africa – Facebook pages devoted purely to the Banting diet and attracting hundreds of thousands of followers. Anyone uncertain of the extent of the Banting revolution in South Africa needs simply to track this phenomenon which has been termed ‘The Wisdom of the Crowds’.

Publication of Raising Superheroes, the sequel to The Real Meal Revolution

Our follow-up book Raising Superheroes which promotes low carbohydrate, real food eating for children, written over the course of the past 12 months with co-authors chef Jonno Proudfoot and UCT-trained, board certified paediatric dietitian Bridget Surtees (daughter of one of my favourite UCT teachers in the 1970s, paediatrician Professor Vincent Harrison), has been released. It too will be published in the UK by Little, Brown and Company in 2016.

Noakes vs Julsing-Strydom – The HPCSA hearing into my “unconventional advice” on social media

The opening exchanges in the HPCSA hearing brought against me by Sandton dietitian Claire Julsing-Strydom MSc, who is also the current President of the Association of Dietitians of South Africa, took place in early June. At issue is whether I am guilty of giving “unconventional advice” on social media by promoting the weaning of infants onto real foods (as opposed to processed baby foods rich in carbohydrates and added sugar). The scientific basis for this is fully argued in Raising Superheroes that becomes the “co-accused” in the case.

The initial hearing was terminated within hours and postponed until November as the HPCSA had constituted the hearing committee in contravention of its own rules and regulations. Whilst we have been promised that this has since been corrected, there are still questions of the manner in which the preliminary hearing, of which we had no knowledge, was conducted and whether this too contravened HPCSA regulations. I am hopeful that this too can be resolved and the hearing continues as planned.

As much as my views are on trial, the hearing presents a convenient opportunity to examine the scientific basis on which the current teaching in Nutrition and Dietetics both in South Africa and globally is based. As I argue here and elsewhere, the evidence appears crystal clear to me: It is those erroneous teachings that are the direct cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics both in South Africa and globally.

Until we interrogate the validity of those teachings, we cannot begin to reverse these epidemics.

During the past year there have been a number of other interesting developments that bear directly on the Banting phenomenon….

The Noakes Foundation: Read the full article