Banting fans ask: Is Tim Noakes trial a sham? ‘Verdict’ press release error

Whether you love or hate Professor Tim Noakes, the academic who has converted tens of thousands of South Africans to the low carbohydrate, high fat – #Banting – way of eating, you have to wonder whether he has wasted his time appearing before the Health Professions Council of South Africa. The body sent out a press release stating that he’d been found guilty – but the verdict is only set to be determined next year. Although it’s fairly standard in public relations circles to prepare statements in anticipation of a finding or event, it is generally unheard of for the wrong statement to go out on such a sensitive topic – and to remain in the public domain for several hours before being withdrawn. The social media is alive with questions from people discussing the “news” that Noakes was guilty of unprofessional conduct when dispensing advice via Twitter to a breastfeeding mother. Noakes’ reputation is at stake over Banting, but the Health Professions Council of South Africa has revealed that it too needs to have questions asked about its professional conduct. The best thing the council can do now is explain in detail the discussions and decisions that led to the distribution of the wrong press release. At this stage, it looks like the verdict is a foregone conclusion. – Jackie Cameron

By Jenna Etheridge

Cape Town – The Health Professions Council of South Africa incorrectly announced on Friday that Professor Tim Noakes had been found guilty of unprofessional conduct.

The HPCSA sent out its initial press release that caused mass confusion just before 13:00, and only retracted it at 16:20.

“We apologise for incorrectly stating that Prof Tim Noakes was found guilty by the Professional Conduct Committee,” the second press release said.

Noakes – whose book The Real Meal Revolution promotes a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet – was called before the HPCSA after the former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Claire Julsing-Strydom, lodged a complaint against him.

It 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]”

Judgment date

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 recently testified during his hearing and called witnesses in defence of his case.

The matter was adjourned this week until argument in April 2017.

The Pro Forma Complainant would have until February 1 next year to file heads of argument. Noakes’ legal team would have until February 22 next year to do the same. The Pro Forma Complainant would then have until March 15 to file a reply to these heads.

The committee would deliberate on the issue and come to a decision between April 6 and 7 next year, the HPCSA said.

Judgment on the matter would be issued on April 21.

Tim Noakes
Tim Noakes

Noakes had 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.

He said the HPCSA had treated him unfairly and not given him the opportunity to defend himself in a preliminary trial.

“I was not dealt a fair hand,” he said.

Noakes pointed out that the hearing had cost him and the HPCSA millions of rand, even though he “did not harm anyone”. He believed he had been targeted because of his celebrity status.

“The only people who took harm from this was myself and my family.”

He insisted the LCHF diet was not dangerous.



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