Making a meal of Noakes’s low-carb tweet?

2015-06-05 17:18
Prof. Tim Noakes. Michael Hammond/Foto24-Kaap

Prof. Tim Noakes. Michael Hammond/Foto24-Kaap

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@scribblingal

Poor Tim Noakes. All he was trying to do was be helpful, doing what doctors do ... giving advice to people. 

My doctor has given me loads of advice. Fortunately it was in the privacy of a consulting room, and not on social media, otherwise we may have had to find a new GP. Noakes’s advice to a mother to wean her child on low-carbohydrate, high-fat foods – on Twitter nogal – has landed him in hot water with the Health Professions Council of South Africa, and he has been accused of unprofessional conduct. 

From what I can gather, Noakes was asked if his low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet was okay for breastfeeding mothers. The woman was worried that too much dairy and cauliflower would give her baby wind. 

Noakes responded: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high fat breast milk.” He added that the key was to wean the baby on to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. 


The “offensive” tweet hit the Twittersphere on February 5 2014, but the hearing only happened this week and the case has been postponed until November. The postponement was largely due to legal issues with the committee presiding over the case, not with the actual advice given by Noakes in the tweet. Which doesn’t help any new mums out there fretting over whether or not they should eat that Banting pizza they’ve been craving all week. 

There is so much conflicting advice out there, especially when it comes to baby food. Start off with veggies. Don’t start off with veggies. Don’t feed your baby food that could cause allergies. Not feeding your baby high-allergy food could cause allergies. Strawberries are out till the age of one. Strawberries are a superfood. Feed your baby pureed food. Let your baby feed itself. Start solids at six months. Start solids at four months. Start solids when your baby looks like it could eat a boerewors roll. 

It’s enough to make any new parent go insane. 

Breast is best, say the breastfeeding advocates. Well, remember those vegan couples who followed the experts’ advice and breastfed exclusively? Their children were so malnourished that they died. 

What about those, non-vegan, “normal” people who feed their children baby food that they have bought from a supermarket? A study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood indicated that baby food from shops was half as nutritious as homemade meals. Have you ever examined a box of baby cereal? Try to find one that doesn’t have sugar. Unless it’s a box of imported, organic stuff that can only be found at specialised stores and that costs R70 a box, chances are you will emerge from the baby aisle empty-handed. 

What about all the people out there who feed their children processed food packed with preservatives, salt and sugar? Vienna sausages. Those MSG-packed “baked” chips that are usually a kid’s first introduction to the joys of good old South African snacks. Commercial bread. What about all the restaurants that serve cardboard junk to children? 

The obesity statistics for South Africans are frightening. In 2012, a study published in the South African Journal of Science found that the fastest overweight and obesity growth rates were found in Africa. “The number of overweight or obese children in 2010 was more than double that in 1990.” 

The study also found that “the two overriding causes of the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in developing countries are said to be a decline in physical activity and diets rich in refined fats, oils and [... drum roll ...] carbohydrates.” 

So what does a modern-day parent who is bombarded with information and crappy baby food do? The message sent by the health professions council is that turning to a trusted GP for (free) advice is apparently not the way to go. 

I don’t see what the point of this health professions council hearing is – a low-carb, high-fat diet is what most childhood development experts seem to advise anyway. Remember that Noakes doesn’t say no carbs, just low carbs. 

Or maybe I’ve got it all wrong, and should just start buying my baby’s food at my local supermarket or taking the kids for some deep-fried Russians and chips from one of South Africa’s favourite family restaurants. Goodness knows, I’d save a lot of money on organic veggies and doctors’ bills because I would have so much more time to spend on Twitter or asking Doctor Google for advice. 


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