Cape Town - Professor Tim Noakes says social media complements medicine and doctor-patient relations, and does not replace it.

Noakes, who has 77 000 Twitter followers, is defending himself at the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) inquiry into his professional conduct.

He is accused of acting unprofessionally by advising Pippa Leenstra to wean her baby onto a low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF).

Leenstra had tweeted him and nutritional therapist Sally-Ann Creed, The Real Meal Revolution co-author, to ask if the LCHF Banting diet was safe for babies of breastfeeding mothers.

Noakes had replied on Twitter: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to wean baby on to LCHF.”

The tweet spurred over 500 responses, but under cross-examination on Wednesday, Noakes said Twitter is a self-correcting forum, and a space for other experts to challenge him, enabling his followers to decide to follow his advice or not.

“Social media is not replacing doctor patient relations,” he said, adding that Leenstra had full access to medical services.

“We have to educate people today not to be lead by the opinion of one or two. It is up to each of us to make decisions on the basis of the best possible evidence,” he added.

HPCSA advocate Ajay Bhoopchand said Twitter poses limitations when it comes to the exchange of medical advice a health practitioner can communicate with users, and in this case suggested Noakes’ advice had created confusion.

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Cape Times