Cape Town - If Banting was a drug, people would be signing up to give us a Nobel Prize, Professor Tim Noakes told the committee investigating his professional conduct.
On Monday, what is expected to be the final chapter in the Noakes versus the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HSPCA) saga resumed.
It began with a tweet in February 2014.
The inquiry set out to determine whether Noakes acted professionally by giving out dietary advice to a breastfeeding mother on Twitter. However, it has ended up putting the low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet that Noakes publicly advocates on trial, debating its merits and the scientific evidence behind it.
Noakes took to the stand to give evidence on Monday afternoon, presenting one study supporting his dietary advice and criticising a Stellenbosch study critical of LCHF.
He presented an article he co-authored as evidence of the benefits of LCHF, which studied a group of 372 Canadians.
The group started off with a high number of people suffering from metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and high cholesterol or triglyceride levels. It puts you at high risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
After six months on a LCHF diet, the number of participants with metabolic syndrome had dropped from 58 percent to 19 percent.
“The high carbohydrate diet they were eating (before) was the cause of their metabolic syndrome,” Noakes told the committee. “This is an irreversible condition, and we reversed it, by putting people on a diet we are told is dangerous.”
The study constituted proof of the benefits of LCHF for Noakes.
“We’ve done the intervention trial; this is a diet that works,” he said. “If this was a drug, people would be signing up to give us a Nobel Prize.”
But because the diet wasn’t a pill a drug company could capitalise on, and it wasn’t a health food a big brand could profit from, it was struggling to gain funding or support, he said.
Noakes lambasted modern medical practice, saying drug companies paid millions of dollars to hospitals in the US each year so doctors would prescribe a particular brand of insulin.
“They’ve got to be bribed to prescribe drugs that do not work,” he said. “Insulin is one of the biggest selling drugs in medicine, and I’m going to show you it has no effect on the outcome of diabetes.”
Noakes reminded the room that diabetes was one of the foremost health problems facing the world, costing billions in government health spending. “There are 400 million people with type 2 diabetes. There are 30 million people with HIV.”.
Noakes is flying in international expert witnesses to give evidence within the next eight days of hearings at the Belmont Square Conference Centre. He dubbed his team of three female expert witnesses “#Charlie’sDietAngels” on Twitter, which his supporters quickly changed to “Tim’s Angels”.
The women are international experts on the LCHF diet, and have written books on the topic. The “Angels” are Dr Caryn Zinn, a dietitian from New Zealand and author of What the Fat; Dr Zoe Harcombe from the UK, whose PhD thesis will be used to bolster Noakes’s case; and Nina Teicholz, a science journalist from New York and author of The Big Fat Surprise.
The bulk of Monday’s hearing was spent arguing over whether the expert trio should be allowed to give evidence. The HPCSA’s legal team took issue with their participation, citing among other reasons the fact they were announced as witnesses last month, and that their expert testimonies were irrelevant to the charges.
After lunch, committee chairman Advocate Joan Adams dismissed the objections, allowing Noakes to take the stand to present his evidence in chief.
Noakes will continue giving evidence on Tuesday.