Noakes hearing through fat into fire‚ says dietitians' leader

The organisation that tried to get Tim Noakes struck off as a medical practitioner says his misconduct hearing was “divisive”.

“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. That is unfortunate‚” said Maryke Gallagher‚ president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa‚ after Noakes was cleared on Friday.

Gallagher’s predecessor‚ Claire Julsing-Strydom‚ complained to the Health Professions Council of South Africa in 2014 over what she said was “unconventional infant nutrition advice”.

Noakes replied to a tweet asking if the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet he advocates is safe for breastfeeding mums. “Worried about all the dairy+cauliflower = wind for babies??” said Pippa Leenstra.

The sports scientist replied: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween [sic] baby onto LCHF.”

In a statement after Noakes was cleared by an independent HPCSA panel chaired by an advocate‚ Joan Adams‚ Gallagher said: “ADSA believed‚ at the time‚ that the advice:

- Was not based on current scientific evidence;

- Contradicted international and local guidelines for complementary feeding adopted by organisations like the World Health Organisation;

- Could negatively affect a baby’s health‚ growth and development; and

- Was provided via Twitter without an examination or consideration of the baby’s health or age and therefore nutritional needs.

“Adsa also considered it risky if other moms on Twitter took the same advice. Professor Noakes did not advise the mom to continue with breastfeeding‚ which undermined its importance. For these reasons‚ Adsa considered the advice unconventional and requested the HPCSA to investigate further.”

Gallagher said the use of social media to give medical advice “does pose interesting questions”.

“Social media provides significant opportunities for public health information and for use by healthcare professionals. However‚ clear guidelines are required to guide and regulate patient interaction outlining the use and limits of social media by health practitioners.”

Reacting to the finding on Friday‚ Noakes said the case had been brought to “shut up any voice trying to change public opinion about food and the food industry”.

But Gallagher said: “There is no conspiracy between big foods and dietitians to sell unhealthy food to South Africans. A healthy population through well-balanced diets is what we strive for.”

She added: “It is very unfortunate that the professionalism and integrity of a number of nutrition scientists in South Africa has been unfairly questioned during this inquiry.

“It is Adsa’s hope that the reputation of nutrition professionals and dietitians as nutrition experts will be restored. Despite the negative sentiment‚ Adsa believed it had a responsibility to inquire about an issue that had such significant consequences for dietitians and other health professionals.”



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