SA study challenges Tim Noakes’ way of dieting

2014-07-10 11:34

A new study by respected South African academics lashes out at the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet made famous by “banting” proponent Professor Tim Noakes.

It points out that slathering dishes in fatty products such as cream and butter could be hazardous to people’s health over time.

In his book The Real Meal Revolution, Noakes insists on cutting bread, pasta, cereals, grains, potatoes, rice, sweets, confectionery and all sugars from eating plans; replacing them with rich animal and plant fats such as butter, cream, cheese and nuts instead.

Even starchy vegetables like beetroot and legumes such as lentils and split peas are given the red light.

But the new study – which targeted 3 209 people in 19 clinical trials over two years – found that “high-fat, low-carb” diets are not more conducive to weight loss in the long run, and that its health side-effects are untested.

The research shoots down “magic bullet weight loss solutions” popularised by celebrities, saying that over time, a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates, fat and protein each in moderation, combined with exercise, remains the best way to keep love handles in check and to stay healthy.

“To maintain a healthy weight, one should aim to balance the amount of food eaten [total energy] with activity levels. Eating more energy than you use over a period of time will result in weight gain,” states the study, endorsed by the Association for Dietetics in SA, the Chronic Disease Initiative for Africa, the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, the Nutrition Society of SA and the Professional Board for Dietetics and Nutrition.

The study points out that the dangers of a high-fat intake over time has not been tested.

“Uncertainty still remains over the long-term safety and effects on health of low carbohydrate diets,” it says.

“Based on current best evidence, low-carbohydrate diets cannot be recommended to the public as part of a long-term healthy lifestyle.”

In 2012, Noakes caused a stir in health circles when he announced a complete turnaround in dietary views.

The sports physician, affiliated to the University of Cape Town and the Sports Science Institute of SA, won worldwide acclaim for his book Lore of Running, described as the “Runner’s Bible”, first published in 2003. The book advocates the benefits of “carbo-loading” and a high-carbohydrate diet.

But in 2012, he announced that he blames food containing carbohydrates for the global rise in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

He claimed that fruit juice, in fact, contains “hidden dangers” and that cereal was one of the worst things parents could feed their children.

He said this is especially true if you are carbohydrate-resistant, a condition many people suffer from unknowingly.

Noakes himself tested positive for carbohydrate resistance in 2011. The condition derives from defective insulin in the body. “Some people, like me, are carb-resistant. We cannot metabolise carbs, so it is changed into fat and can lead to obesity and diabetes if one does not change to a low-carbohydrate diet,” he explained at the time.

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