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Fat flies over Noakes diet

Published Sep 19, 2012


Michelle Jones

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scientific opinion is in favour of reducing cholesterol in the diet as a key preventive measure of cardiovascular disease, says the dean of UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Marian Jacobs.

She was weighing in on the debate over Tim Noakes’s controversial high-fat, high-protein diet and its relationship with heart disease.

A group of top doctors wrote in the Cape Times last week that Noakes, professor of Exercise and Sports Science at UCT, had gone too far in suggesting that a switch to a high-fat, high-protein diet was advisable for everyone. They warned it could be dangerous for anyone with, or at risk of, heart problems. Noakes hit back saying the theory that blood cholesterol and a high fat diet were the causes of heart disease would be one of the greatest errors in medical history.

Jacobs states in a letter to the Cape Times that scientific progress was made possible by such engagement. “However, for patients the debate might appear to be confusing, since eminent experts appear to be contradicting each other.”

Jacobs said that though it was important to continuously challenge existing understanding by reviewing new scientific findings, the current balance of evidence did not constitute more than a hypothetical argument. It did not warrant changing the training received by students or the health promotion advice practitioners give to their patients, she said.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA said both sides of the argument held some merit. Chief executive Vash Mungal-Singh

said there was solid proof that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats would improve cholesterol levels, reduce heart disease risk and prevent insulin resistance, a precursor of diabetes. Bad fats were found in reused frying oil, commercially fried and baked foods, processed snack foods and hard margarines.

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