UCTs Professor Tim Noakes, whose high-fat diet has been dubbed a global food revolution, says talks are under way to get buy-in from the community of farm workers.

Tanya Farber

CARBOHYDRATES versus offal may take centre stage at a farm in the Karoo where local farmworkers will be the litmus test for whether the Banting diet can result in better health.

UCT’s Professor Tim Noakes, whose high-fat diet has been dubbed “a global food revolution”, says talks are under way to get buy-in from the community of farm workers.

When Derek Carstens, a former marketing director of FirstRand, bought a farm in the Karoo, he noticed the health of the labourers and their children was not good.

“I advised that food was at the heart of the problem, and I submitted a research proposal to (Carstens),” said Noakes. “He agreed to provide food for the families for life, but only food that is considered optimal in the high-fat diet, which advocates high fat and protein rather than carbohydrates.”

Once the project begins, the families on the farm will be monitored for five to 10 years. With a diet high in offal – which is readily available in the farmlands of the Karoo – the families will stop consuming carbohydrates, which Noakes says are of no benefit to the human body.

“This is an ideal set-up,” said Noakes. “And it would be much harder to do research of this nature in a place like Cape Town.”

A process is under way to consult the community and get their permission, but Noakes hopes for the best.

“We can’t build this nation in the absence of sufficient protein and fat. These essential elements cannot be substituted with carbohydrates,” he said.

He was recently invited to speak to parliamentarians in the Karoo regarding the poor nutrition of farm labourers.

“I explained to them that a farming community should be the healthiest community of all,” he said, adding that he hoped to proceed with the research “one step at a time”.

“Our ultimate goal is that all families in the Karoo eat offal as their staple, rather than a diet high in carbohydrates, which leads to exhaustion. By eating liver, kidneys, brains and marrow, people will be seeing the benefits that hunter-gatherers experienced. They ate the organs first. The rest of the meaty tissue – which is not high quality – was seen as being of much lower importance,” he said.

Supermarkets today place a higher premium on meat than on offal, but given the benefits, argues Noakes, it could be the other way around.

A radiologist in the public sector, who did not want to be named, said he had noticed from MRI scans that in communities where people were under-nourished because of a diet high in carbohydrates, people’s brains were contracting by the age of 30. “This is because of a deficiency of fat in their diet,” he said.

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