No social media guidelines for health practitioners exist - Noakes

2016-10-17 19:01
Michael van der Nest, Professor Tim Noakes and Ravin Ramdass at the hearing. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Michael van der Nest, Professor Tim Noakes and Ravin Ramdass at the hearing. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Professor Tim Noakes has never received social media guidelines from the Health Professions Council of SA, he said on Monday.

To his knowledge, no HPCSA social media rules exist, the banting advocate told a hearing into his conduct.

Noakes - whose book The Real Meal Revolution promotes a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet - was charged with giving unconventional medical advice via Twitter after he advised a breastfeeding mother to wean her baby onto LCHF two years ago.

The complaint was prompted by a tweet Noakes sent to a Pippa Leenstra, after she asked him for advice on feeding babies and on breastfeeding.

Her tweet read: "@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies?? [sic]"

Motivation

READ: If you eat every three hours, you are eating addictively - Noakes

Noakes advised her to wean her child onto 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."

He has almost 77 500 followers on the social network, on which he regularly shares articles and research supporting the banting diet.

Earlier in the hearing, which started in 2015, witnesses for the HPCSA said a consultation was required before any advice could be given or diagnosis made.

Former president of the Association for Dietetics in SA, Claire Julsing-Strydom, brought the complaint.

Noakes questioned why Leenstra, who ostensibly could have suffered harm, did not lay the charge. He argued he did not give advice on breastfeeding, but on weaning.

Noakes alleged that Julsing-Strydom’s complaint was not centred on breastfeeding, but on the diet he advocates in his book, of which she did not approve.

The HPCSA argues that Noakes gave unconventional and unscientific advice, and was unprofessional in his conduct for dispensing the advice via social media.

Earlier, chairperson Joan Adams allowed Noakes to introduce two international witnesses to testify in his defence, despite objections about their relevance and the timing of their inclusion.

Dr Zoe Harcombe, from London, is a diet and health researcher. According to her website she is an author, blogger, and public speaker, with proficiency in public health dietary guidelines.

Nina Teicholz, from New York, is an investigative journalist. She is the author of The Big Fat Surprise, which "explains the politics, personalities, and history of how we came to believe that dietary fat is bad for health".

Adams ruled that the objection to their inclusion in the hearing be dismissed.

“This is a serious charge, serious enough to warrant a prosecution from the council. To date it has cost millions of rand and has drawn serious media attention,” she said.

“There are serious consequences for the complainant and the respondent.”

She said Noakes had a constitutional right and was entitled to call witnesses or lead evidence to assist him to conduct his defence.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

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