Noakes breaks down during hearing

By Renee Moodie Time of article published Feb 10, 2016

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Cape Town - Sports scientist Professor Tim Noakes broke down in tears as he described the cost to himself and his family of the Health Professions Council of SA disciplinary hearing.

The hearing is looking into his professional conduct in advising a breastfeeding mother on Twitter. A complaint about this tweet was made to the HPCSA by the then-president of the Association of Dietetics SA, Claire Julsing-Strydom.

Noakes said that when he first saw the complaint he thought it was irrational and that there was no evidence for the complaint.

He repsonded with a two-page letter which contained some evidence but which he thought would satisfy an objective committee that this was just a storm in a teacup.

He was shocked when he realised there was a charge against him, and if he had access to the evidence against him he would have prepared the kind of response that was now being presented at the hearing.

“I would have done anything in my power to stop this,” he said, starting to weep as he spoke of the cost to himself and his family.

Earlier, Noakes referred to the charge against him, saying that he truly did not believe he was in a doctor-patient relationship with the mother who asked about breastfeeding, Pippa Leenstra.

He was convinced he was replying to her in his capacity as an author and not as a doctor. He did not regard himself as a doctor and had been replying as a scientist.

"How could it be wrong to advise a mother to do what is natural - we have been doing this [breastfeeding] for millions of years," he asked.

He said he had been answering questions from the public since 1972.

"I know how to handle them - if I get an 'I' question I will never give advice," he said,referring to the difference between general and personal questions.

Noakes described his many speaking engagements in the county and internationally, where he said he always talked about the science of the diet.

"I have spoken to 20 000 people over the country. No one has spoken to South Africans about nutrition in this way. I know what people think face to face, I have had 300 hours of contact discussing nutrition."

Despite this, there had never been a complaint. "Now a seven-word tweet has led to a multi-million hearing."

He said people did not embrace his ideas as a religious cult.

"I know I only convert a few people," he said. "I have prescribed high carb diets for many years and harmed people including myself. I have learned to be humble."

He said the world had moved away from patriarchal medicine. "We have the wisdom of crowds as opposed to the wisdom of the annointed. If a high-fat diet is bad that will be exposed on social media in a matter of weeks, he said.

He emphasised that he did not presribe a diet. "I tell them to read the book [The Real Meal Revolution} and tell them to select foods from the green list - come and show me what is wrong on the green list."

He told the hearing that he felt he had a gift for communicating scientific ideas to lay people and that that was why he wrote books and was active on Twitter.

"I want people to have information, I am not telling people what to do. The Lore of Running is the most complete book on running ever written, and Raising Superheroes [the sequel to Real Meal Revolution] is one of best books written for nutrition for children."

He said that the first book on the LCHF diet, The Real Meal Revolution, had sold 250 000 copies.

'People always ask what does Noakes do with the money... every cent for every book I have ever written goes two foundations. My royalties go to the Noakes Foundation."

He said royalties from previous books went to fund the studies of a research scientist at UCT.

The hearing was adjourned and resumes at 10am on Thursday.

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