Cape Town – Weaning a child on rice cereal is its earliest introduction to junk food, Professor Tim Noakes said on Monday.
Testifying at a hearing into his conduct before the Health Professions Council of SA, the professor of exercise science and sports medicine said research had shown it was a product with very poor nutritional value.
He quoted research by Professor Alan Greene of Stanford University, who challenged rice cereal’s status as a staple food in the US.
Noakes quoted Greene as saying: "In fact, I think white rice cereal is the tap root of the child obesity epidemic. The problem is that it is, basically, like feedings kids a spoonful of sugar."
Noakes argued that an infant did not need one gram of carbohydrates.
The Real Meal Revolution, Noakes' book, promotes a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet.
He was called before the council after a complaint was lodged by the former president of the Association for Dietetics in SA, Claire Julsing-Strydom.
The complaint was prompted by a tweet Noakes sent to a Pippa Leenstra after she asked him in a tweet if LCHF eating was advisable for breastfeeding mothers. She said she was worried that feeding babies dairy and cauliflower would give them wind.
Noakes advised her to wean her child on to LCHF foods, which he described as "real" foods.
His tweet read: "Baby doesn't eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high fat breast milk. Key is to ween [sic] baby onto LCHF."
Noakes' response resulted in his being accused of giving unconventional and unscientific advice, and of unprofessional conduct for dispensing the advice via social media.
According to his LCHF diet, infants should be put on a diet of soft, cooked meat and full-fat dairy, dark green and orange vegetables, in addition to breast milk, from six months.
Not against dietary guidelines
This, he pointed out, was not against national and international dietary guidelines.
Noakes, however, disagreed with the South African dietary guidelines which advise that carbohydrates should also be introduced.
"Wholegrains are not making us healthier," he said.
All the foods in the South African nutritional guidelines were on the green list of foods in his book, he said.
Eating fat was important for babies as it provided essential fatty acids. Noakes pointed out that the World Health Organisation advised that infants’ diets contain 30% to 45% fat, which he said was considered a high fat diet locally.
The hearing continues.
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