International experts to back up Noakes's LCHF argument at hearing

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Tim Noakes (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Tim Noakes (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Cape Town - Three international experts are expected to be called to testify during the hearing into Professor Tim Noakes's conduct by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).

The banting advocate was hauled before the HPCSA for giving "unconventional advice" to a breastfeeding mother by advising her to wean her child onto a low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet, arguing it could be potentially life-threatening and was not evidence-based.

Noakes’s hearing resumed on Monday after being postponed in February.

Michael van der Nest SC, appearing for Noakes, said they would call three witnesses to testify over the next eight days.

UCT graduate Dr Caryn Zinn is a whole-food dietitian and nutritionist from New Zealand. She is also a senior lecturer, author and researcher.

According to Noakes, Zinn had been advising a low carb, high fat dietary prescription for the past three years and had faced complaints by the Dietitians Board in New Zealand from members of the dietitian society and also the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Objection to witnesses

Dr Zoe Harcombe, from London, is a diet and health researcher.

Her website states she is also an author, blogger and public speaker in this field with proficiency in public health dietary guidelines.

Nina Teicholz, from New York, is an investigative journalist.

She is also 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".

The HPCSA objected to Harcombe and Teicholz being allowed to testify as they were not initially part of Noakes's list of witnesses.

They also argued that new evidence, not included in the pre-trial, should not be allowed to be introduced.

Baby food advice

Noakes – whose book The Real Meal Revolution promotes a LCHF diet – was called before the council after a complaint was lodged by the former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Claire Julsing-Strydom.

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]"

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."

Noakes argued during the hearing that his advice was anything but unconventional, quoting research from as far back as the 1800s before the boom in obesity rates.

Need for fat

Sugar needed to be removed from diets, he argued, as the body had no biological need for it.

Babies, Noakes testified, needed fat in breast milk for brain development, and the need for it was so enormous that should this not be realised, generations of children would be developed who may be "brain compromised".

Too little fat in a child's diet caused obesity, he insisted.

The hearing, initially expected to be concluded within seven days, was last year postponed with only the pro forma complainant's witnesses and Noakes testifying.

Noakes's legal team - Van der Nest and Ravin Ramdass - were representing Noakes pro bono.

The HPCSA was paying for the hearing, which is costing the council hundreds of thousands of rand.

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