Tim Noakes or Tim Hoax?

2014-08-12 00:00

The supporters’ views

PROFESSOR Tim Noakes’s “low carbohydrates, high fat” (LCHF) diet is once again in the crossfire, with a cardiologist calling it “criminal”.

An investigation by Healt-e News service found more and more medics are rejecting Noakes’s diet, and warning of health repercussions.

Noakes, a renowned sports scientist based at the University of Cape Town, claims the high-fat diet he promotes reverses all known risk factors for heart disease.

As a result, some patients with high cholesterol have exchanged their cholesterol-lowering medication (called statins) for the LCHF diet, with detrimental results.

Cardiologist Dr Anthony Dalby described Noakes’s advice to heart patients to exchange cholesterol-lowering drugs for his diet as “criminal”.

International obesity expert Professor Tessa van der Merwe said there are “many health risks connected with the LHCF diet”.

It could exacerbate heart disease, worsen diabetes and osteoporosis and cause gall and kidney stones, says Van der Merwe, honorary professor of Endocrinology at the University of Pretoria.

“If you have got familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), the chances that you will develop a sinister cholesterol profile are a reality,” she adds.

FH is caused by a genetic disorder that causes high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. It is particularly common in the Afrikaans-speaking population, where there is a 1:70 occurrence in comparison to a 1:500 in the general population.

The efficacy of the LCHF diet also came into question when a recent review by Stellenbosch University researchers showed that people following a low-carb diet achieved similar weight loss to those on a low-fat diet.

Dalby says one of his patients’ blood cholesterol levels more than doubled (from 5,1 to 12,9) when she dumped her ­statins for Noakes’s diet.

But when the 39-year-old woman returned to a normal diet and resumed her medication, her cholesterol dropped substantially to 7,3.

“Statins make a tremendous difference in heart disease risk in people with FH, as they will not be able to control their cholesterol through lifestyle,” says Professor David Marais, a lipidologist with the University of Cape Town.

“Research shows that the average age of death for a man with untreated FH is 43 years, and 85% of them will not reach the age of 60,” adds Marais.

“Genetic disorders that lower LDL concentration are associated with lower risk. In persons with the common range of cholesterol, there is a definite association with risk but other factors such as age, smoking, hypertension, obesity and others, may predominate in their contribution to risk so that intervention with cholesterol lowering treatment will not have as large an impact as it has in the very high risk of FH,” says Marais.

Noakes admits that the LCHF diet raises cholesterol levels in about one in three people, but does not consider it a health risk. He disputes that blood cholesterol levels cause coronary heart disease.

Instead of cholesterol, Noakes blames insulin resistance (IR) for heart disease.

Noakes believes that most people today are IR and would thus benefit from cutting carbohydrate from their diet and replacing it with saturated (animal) fats. His theory on cholesterol contradicts the current medical view on coronary heart disease prescribed by international health authorities like the World Health Organisation and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

— Health-e News Service, Witness Reporter.

Professor Tim Noakes has caused deep divisions in health circles with his advocacy of protein and fat over carbs. Supporters and detractors alike present evidence to substantiate their views.

ONE of Noakes’s supporters, Gregory Werner, quoted Dr George Mann, a researcher with the Framingham Heart Study, who went on record in Grain Brain by David Perlmutter to state: “The diet heart hypothesis that suggests that a high intake of fat or cholesterol causes heart disease has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, and yet, for complicated reasons of pride, profit, and prejudice, the hypothesis continues to be exploited ... The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century.”

Another Noakes supporter, Hans Priem, posted the Noakes diet is similar to the Atkins diet, plus a link to a 2012 admission by U.S. heart surgeon Dr Dwight Lundell, who said he realised he has been wrong after 25 years of heart operations. Lundell said the discovery that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease will be treated.

“The long-established dietary recommendations have created epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the consequences of which dwarf any historical plague in terms of mortality, human suffering and dire economic consequences.”

• In 1986, in his first book, The Lore of Running, Professor Tim Noakes dedicates a whole chapter to the importance of carbohydrates, promoting their benefits to runners and other athletes.

• In 2011, Noakes announces in an article that he has had a change of heart after losing 20 kg by cutting refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, etc) from his diet and replacing them with meat and fish, indicating a high-protein instead

of a high-fat diet. He particularly notes that he still eats fruit and vegetables.

• By 2012, Noakes also cuts bananas and potatoes from his diet and is allowing himself between 50 and 75 grams of carbohydrates a day. There is no indication of a restriction of protein.

• Today he only allows himself 50g or less of carbohydrates.

The “Tim Noakes Diet” is known as a low-carb, high-fat diet and also has restrictions on protein intake.

He advises cutting

out most fruits because of their high sugar content and also most starchy vegetables (e.g. butternut) and all legumes (e.g. lentils and beans).

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