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“Professor Tim Noakes was being used by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) as a “guinea pig” to test waters on guidelines for the conduct of health professionals on social media, which did not exist.”

– Michael Van Der Nest, defence advocate

He was speaking during the second day of proceedings in Pretoria into the appeal by the HPCSA seeking to overturn a “not guilty” verdict for Noakes for advising a mother to wean her baby on to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet in 2014.

Van der Nest said the council had freely admitted it did not have any guidelines or standards for health professionals with regards to their conduct on social media.

He said the case was nothing more than a “disgruntled dietitian” who had reported Noakes to the HPCSA because he was threatening her livelihood and that of other dietitians.

Wean baby onto low-carbohydrate, high-fat

In April, Noakes was found not guilty of misconduct after the regulatory body received a complaint about him giving the advice to a mother on Twitter.

Noakes had advised the mother via Twitter to wean her child on to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat foods.

The mother tweeted: “@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is low-carbohydrate, high fat eating ok for breastfeeding moms? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies??”

In response Noakes tweeted: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to wean baby on to low-carbohydrate, high fat.”

Van der Nest said the dietitian had used the mother’s tweet as a pretext.

“Somehow she managed to get the machinery and might of the State, a statutory body, to prosecute him. How was that allowed to happen?”

HPCSA unable to doctor-patient relationship

He said the HPCSA had been unable to prove a doctor-patient relationship between Noakes and the mother. He contested the body’s decision to charge Noakes with giving “unconventional advice”.

He lambasted Ajay Bhoopchand, for the HPCSA, for comparing Noakes’s advice to that of apartheid-era Dr Wouter Basson and the Life Esidimeni hospital scandal.

“These comparisons were wholly inappropriate,” Van der Nest said.

People had died as a result of ingesting chemicals Basson had developed as part of the apartheid government’s chemical weapons programme against its opponents. There was no evidence or claim of any harm whatsoever from Noakes’s tweet, he said.

After the adjournment of the appeal, Noakes said that for the first time in four-and-a-half years, he was confident the decision would go his way.

He said he believed there were two crucial issues that had led the HPCSA to continue prosecuting him. First, that failure to prove a doctor-patient relationship could coincidentally result in it being more difficult to prosecute him.

Second, that if he was exonerated, the public would realise what he had been saying about diet all along was correct and that dietitians who stood up against him were in fact wrong.

Public will realise that what Noakes had been saying about diet was correct

Noakes said that having read up on the body of work on the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet before he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, he had realised he was simply eating too much carbohydrates.

Upon reducing carbohydrates and adopting a new diet, Noakes said his health had changed profoundly.

He said his pro-low carbohydrate, high-fat stance stemmed from shocking statistics pointing out that diabetes was the most prevalent condition in the world, with 400 million diabetics and 15000 South Africans being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes every month due to a poor diet.

“But I’ve got the knowledge of how you prevent (this) and it’s my responsibility, as ordained by the HPCSA, that if you know something you must act on it, and that is what I am doing and now I am being prosecuted for that,” Noakes said.

Prof Noakes is A1-rated scientist in nutrition

He rejected assertions that he did not have the expertise or experience to give neonatal or infant care advice, stating that the prosecution had conveniently chosen to forget he was an A1-rated scientist in nutrition.


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