Professor Tim Noakes demonstrates his live Twitter feed to the committee. Picture: Renee Moodie
Professor Tim Noakes demonstrates his live Twitter feed to the committee. Picture: Renee Moodie

Noakes 'is driven by dad's illness'

By Renee Moodie Time of article published Feb 11, 2016

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Cape Town - Sports scientist Tim Noakes has described how his father's illness drove him to investigate diabetes and its causes.

He was speaking at the Health Professions Council of SA disciplinary committee on his professional conduct.

The hearing arises from a Twitter exchange in February 2014 in which the low carb high fat (LCHF) diet was discussed in relation to breastfeeding mothers and weaning babies. Noakes told Pippa Leenstra: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween (sic) into a LCHF.”

On Thursday he showed a photograph of his family on the day he got his degree. He said that at the time his father that type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure and that he would go on to lose a foot, then his legs and his mind. “This is personal to me, but also diabetes is the world's biggest medical threat. Insulin resistance is the most common medical condition - and yet we do not teach it in medical school,” he said.

He told the hearing that he himself had type 2 diabetes even though he has run 70 marathons. “I have the genes,” he said, adding that he had eaten a high carbohydrate diet for many years, and had advocated this in his book The Lore Of Running.

He said that in December 2010 he had heard of a book called The New Atkins For A New You by Eric Westman, Jeff Volek, and Stephen Phinney.

“It said you could lose 6kg in six weeks without hunger. These were good scientists but I thought that was impossible. I thought they had sold out to Atkins. I bought it, and I realised I had been misled and I had misled the public. There was a whole history about which I had been ignorant.”

Advocate Rocky Ramdass referred Noakes to charge against him which is that he provided “unconventional advice on breastfeeding babies on social media”. In response to a request for particulars on the charge against him Noakes was informed that “unconventional” meant a high-fact, low-carb ketogenic diet, and that this was dangerous to children.

Noakes pointed out that he had not suggested a ketogenic diet, which was used as nutritional therapy for epilepsy and cancer and which was very high in fat and low in protein.

Noakes told the committee that he ate 25g of carbohydrates a day, which was lowest one could eat and still get enough fibre and vegetables. He recommended that people eat between 25g and 200g of carbohydrates a day.

He took the committee though the evolution of human nutrition over 3 millions years, his thesis being that a diet rich in animal and fish had been responsible for the growth of the human brain over time, and that this is the diet which humans are best adapted to eat.

He said the human beings had a natural desire to eat fat. In the 1970s we took fat away, he said.

“But if you take fat out, you have to replace with sugar, otherwise people won't eat it.”

He said he believed the diseases of civilisation were nutritionally based.

Earlier, he showed the committee his live Twitter feed in order to demonstrate the context of the tweet for which he has been charged.

He said he had made 25 000 tweets since joining Twitter. He followed 111 people he said, and claimed his tweets reached a million people a week.

He said that Twitter provided a torrent of information, and he viewed it as a place to give information. He only gave answers to questions in areas in which he felt himself to be expert.

The hearing has adjourned for lunch.


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