Cape Town - Tim Noakes was slammed by a nutrition expert at his Health Professions Council of SA’s (HPCSA) inquiry on Tuesday, who said the popular Banting-diet advocate didn’t have the necessary qualifications to give dietary advice to breastfeeding mothers.
Professor Este Vorster, delivering testimony at the hearing into Noakes’s conduct, also questioned the need to put a “healthy baby” on a low-carbohydrate high-fat (LCHF) diet.
She was referring to Noakes’s controversial tweet in response to a mother of a young baby after she asked which diet to consider when weaning her baby.
Noakes tweeted his response: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower.
“Just very healthy high fat breast milk.
“Key is to ween (sic) baby into LCHF.”
Vorster said according to national dietary guidelines, such a diet, also known as a ketogenic diet, was not meant for healthy infants but was used as a therapeutic diet for epileptic children who did not respond to medication.
Children on such diets also had to be under constant medical supervision.
Vorster told the hearing that she accepted Noakes could give medical advice as he was a medical doctor, but he should have referred the mother to a registered dietician for advice on the baby’s diet.
Asked by pro-forma complainant advocate Meshak Mapolisa whether there were guidelines that advocated for a LCHF diet for infants, Vorster – an expert witness – responded that she had never come across such guidelines.
Vorster expressed her disapproval of Noakes advocating the Banting diet on social media, saying an assessment should have been conducted first. It was her opinion that no such advice could be given without having assessed the health of the baby.
In earlier proceedings, Julsing-Strydom had denied her complaint about the tweet to the HPCSA was motivated by resentment for Noakes, but rather her desire to protect the public from his “dangerous” messages that are “inconsistent and not evidence-based”.
She was responding to Noakes’s defence advocate Michael van der Nest’s suggestion that her complaint was driven by resentment for the UCT emeritus professor as she didn’t agree with his “unconventional diet”.
Under intense cross-examination, the inquiry needed a brief adjournment so that Julsing-Strydom could compose herself as Van der Nest almost brought her to tears.
When cross-examination by Noakes’s defence continued, she described his messages as “inconsistent” with no solid scientific evidence to back up his comments.
She said despite her attempts to engage with Noakes for many years and trying to get appropriate evidence in the form of reviews and meta analysis, Noakes had failed to present evidence.
She told the hearing that she laid the complaint in the interest of those whose lives could be endangered by following his advice blindly without consulting their own doctors. She said as Noakes was trusted by society, his advice could mislead many who may regard it as “an absolute truth”.
She said she had lodged the complaint to protect the most vulnerable in society – infants.
“It is not resentment or a personal attack on Professor Noakes... we are not happy with the information he is distributing.
“The problem is that this information is focused on an infant... and I understand that is a vulnerable group,” she said.
Van der Nest said Noakes had submitted 4 000 pages of evidence to back his case.