When the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) lodged a complaint of professional misconduct against respected scientist Prof Tim Noakes, they did not do so with any malicious intent.
“ADSA accepts the verdict and we are relieved that the hearing has finally been concluded,” Maryke Gallagher, President of ADSA responded this afternoon after the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) found that Prof Noakes was not guilty of misconduct when he responded to a tweet in 2014.
ADSA believed that a strict low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet for babies would not be sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of a growing child. Their primary concern was babies’ health.
Following the not guilty verdict of Prof Noakes earlier today, Gallagher said: “The case also sets a precedent about the use and limits of social media by health professionals. For ADSA this hearing was never about winning or losing, or standing for or against Professor Noakes. It was about protecting the health of babies and future adults.”
Nutrition for children
Dietary guidelines for feeding babies are based on a strong body of evidence and developed by organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
In South Africa, the Department of Health has adopted these recommendations. In addition, the Paediatric Food Based Dietary Guidelines is also used and backed by technical support papers published in 2013.
Experimenting with a baby’s development is immense, and the long-term effect of LCHF diets on babies’ health is currently unknown.
Therefore, ADSA believed that the advice provided by Professor Noakes was against accepted common practice.
“We will study the verdict in detail and decide what implications this case has for ADSA and dietitians. We also call on the HPCSA to provide guidelines for health professionals’ use of social media in their practice,” said Gallagher.
ADSA will continue to provide dietary advice that is evidence-based and in line with guidelines provided by the national Department of Health and international bodies such as WHO.
Developing dietary requirements – both local and international – requires rigorous scientific processes, and the outcome of the enquiry does not mean that these guidelines will change. ADSA will consider new approaches and practices based on scientific evidence that has been adopted by credible health organisations.
“We respect Professor Tim Noakes for his work as a sports scientist. He is a well-respected A-rated scientist and is respected in academic circles. His work is pioneering and he has always tested conventional thinking. But, we have differed with Professor Noakes on this issue. We have no personal gripe with Professor Noakes. Our concern has always been about the health of babies,” said Gallagher.
According to ADSA this hearing has raised significant awareness about the importance of nutrition, which is positive. Health, wellness and nutrition should concern everybody. ADSA believes that South Africans have also been confused by the ebb and flow of this divisive nutrition debate and the inconsistent nutritional advice provided over many years.
“I’m pleased this is over and we can now focus on other urgent nutrition challenges we have in South Africa,” concluded Gallagher.