Tim Noakes to critics: Let’s take off our shirts and compare

Right now South Africa can’t get enough of Tim Noakes. The sports scientist expanded his nutrition work on super athletes to himself and after years of confusion reached some very definite conclusions. But what he now recommends has been hotly countered by vested interests – turning the previously popular professor into persona non grata in numerous circles, including among colleagues at the University of Cape Town. Biznews columnist Heather Dugmore caught up with Noakes this week. At 65, he’s starting to develop a six-pack again and running faster than ever. Reason: He has cut out certain foods he regularly ingested that were toxic to his body. And are also for many of us – chubby Julius Malema of the EFF among them. Also read Heather’s Q&A with Tim – the Dummy’s Guide to Banting.  – AH  

By Heather Dugmore

Heather Dugmore: Author, writer and farmer. Not necessarily in that order.
Heather Dugmore: Author, writer and farmer. Here she uses her interviewing skills onto Tim Noakes

As we all know by now Professor Tim Noakes believes that it is not proteins and fats but rather carbohydrates and sugars that are the culprits of ill health and obesity. Since we can’t get enough of him, I interviewed him about his life and health as a Banter.


“I love running without a shirt and now I can. At first I did it in the dark but now I do it in broad daylight and I’m happy to report that I’ve almost got a six-pack again,” laughs Tim. “I’m running well, eating well and sleeping well. I also no longer have rhinitis and allergic bronchitis – I was having a major attack every three months. It got so bad I was treating it with steroids.”

He has also stopped snoring, much to his wife’s delight, and his heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome disappeared within a month of starting what is now widely known as the Tim Noakes or Banting diet

“Snoring is associated with excessive fat accumulation in the throat,” he explains. “Together with heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome they are all due to something in your diet that doesn’t agree with you: sugars and carbohydrates.”

But is it possible that simply by cutting out sugars and carbohydrates and changing to healthy fats, proteins and leafy vegetables we can prevent diabetes, lose weight and live healthier, longer lives?

“If you are overweight the chances are high that you are carbohydrate intolerant, which means you cannot metabolise carbs properly, hence your body turns them into fat. If you are overweight the chances are equally high that you are addicted to carbs, and the more carbs you eat the fatter you will become, especially as you grow older. The fatter you are, the more prone to diseases like diabetes you become,” he replies.

By completely avoiding all sugars, limiting his carbohydrate intake to leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli) and tucking into healthy fats and proteins, Tim lost 15 kilograms in three months after starting the diet four years ago and has never felt better, fitter or stronger in his 65 years.

The diet has triggered an ongoing furor in the medical profession – with some members of the profession condemning Tim’s eating plan as dangerous, while others, including several professors of medicine who are on the eating plan, wholeheartedly supporting his approach.

“I knew it would cause controversy but when I realised I had been wrong about carbs for all these years, I had to speak out,” says Tim who only spoke out once he had done an immense amount of research on the subject, as well as testing his findings on himself.

“Before I started this eating plan I was getting exhausted running up hills that I could once handle with ease. Plus I kept gaining weight even though I run every day and ate pretty healthily (or so I thought). I was convinced it was middle age spread when it was actually sugar-carbohydrate-wheat-beer spread.”

On top of all this he was worried about the genetic factor because his father developed diabetes when he was Tim’s age, and subsequently had several strokes and lost both of this legs.

“I now recognise that I had been experiencing diabetic symptoms for the past five to ten years,” Tim continues. “The symptoms included mood swings (I’d have outbursts, which isn’t me, I’m a mellow character) and I had this constant fog in my head and couldn’t think straight. I now realise the fog was real – it was glucose in the brain, which is directly related to carbs in the diet that cause a foggy effect. In its extreme form this can lead to Alzheimer’s, which is, in effect, diabetes of the brain.”

But what about cholesterol? Won’t this eating plan lead to high cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease?

“My cholesterol is nice and high,” said Tim. “We hear words like cholesterol and we have been programmed to think that high cholesterol is unhealthy because we don’t know there are different kinds of cholesterol. High HDL cholesterol, which is what I have, is healthy, particularly as we get older,” says Tim who believes that the medical profession perpetuates myths about cholesterol and instead of getting to the source of the problem, prescribes a whole lot of pills.

Instead of prescribing more pills, Tim believes that we need to make cheap protein and fat available to everyone to improve the population’s health.

“We need to get the bone marrow, brains, liver, kidneys; eggs and full cream milk into poor communities and we need to get rid of the sugar, fizzy drinks, chips and white bread, because that is what is killing people, rich and poor,” says Tim.

Take him into any community and he can tell you exactly who is carbohydrate intolerant. “When I look at the politicians, I can tell you the same and Mr Malema is one of them. So I have this in common with him, but the difference is that I know it and he doesn’t,” laughs Tim who is the portrait of good, slim health.

“I’m happy to stand next to all those medical people who say this eating plan is wrong and dangerous, and for all of us to take off our shirts and see who is looking well and who is not,” challenges Tim who is regularly spotted running topless in the streets of Cape Town.

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