On Trial for Healthy Eating Advice

Professor Tim Noakes was charged with unprofessional conduct after Johannesburg dietitian Claire Julsing Strydom, then president of the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA), laid a complaint against him for two tweets in which he told a breastfeeding mother that meat and veg were good first foods for infants, according to a recent article[1].

Noakes, a South African emeritus professor in the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at the University of Cape Town and author of Waterlogged  , The Lore of Running  and creator of the Tim Noakes Diet is currently on trial in South Africa on two counts:

  1. Acting unprofessionally by giving nutritional advice over Twitter.
  2. Advising that a weaning infant would benefit from being introduced to a low-carbohydrate, high/healthy-fat (LCHF) diet.

Regarding the first point of contention, it’s hard to believe a tweet could reach such a high level.

Where do we draw the line?

Does every professional who writes a blog, posts on Facebook or sends out a tweet now need to preface it with a note stating that this is just their opinion and it’s advisable to contact your doctor prior to reading the information provided?

First of all, that on its own would take up all 40 characters and second, the onus needs to be at least in part with the reader.  

It’s each of our own responsibility to decide what information we read is legitimate, which is nonsense and which is outright dangerous.

Anyone can write, photograph and video anything they like online, so for us as readers to trust everything we read blindly is irresponsible.

Point number two, in my opinion is far more disturbing.

In a paper published in 2015[2] by ADSA, the recommendations include:

  • Babies should be given only, where possible, breast milk from birth until the age of six months. Following the 6-month period, small amounts of food introduced into a baby’s diet, called complementary foods can be introduced while breastfeeding should continue up to two years of age and beyond.
  • An infant’s energy (which is provided by breast milk and complementary foods) should come from about 30 – 45% of total fat, 6 – 7% of protein with the remainder from carbohydrates. This is very much in line with the composition of breast milk at that age. It is also recommended that infant diets do not contain more than 15% of energy from protein, until more is known on the effect of protein on obesity later on in life.
  • Foods should includes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, meat and meat alternatives (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and nut butters) and dairy products (from the age of 12 month and in addition to, but not replacing breast milk), foods from animals (meat, poultry, fish or egg) should be eaten daily, or as often as possible to meet protein and iron needs. In infants and young children, vegetarian diets cannot meet nutrient needs, unless nutrient supplements or fortified products are used, dark green leafy vegetables and orange colored vegetables and fruit rich in Vitamin A (e.g. sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, broccoli and spinach, mango, peaches, apricot, paw-paw) should be eaten daily, adequate fat content (from plant foods e.g. vegetable oils, avocado, nut butters and foods from animals, listed above, and also including breast milk).
  • Fortified complementary foods or vitamin-mineral supplements for infants, as needed or prescribed.

Sorry, come again?

Infant diets should not contain more than 15% of energy from protein, until more is known on the effect of protein on obesity later on in life?

Yet a diet of upwards of 50% carbs is being recommended, as though we’re not really sure if that’s a good idea?

ADSA, who regularly maintains that promoting processed cereal bars with added sugar to sporty children as a source of energy is backed by science[3], like the USDA, is sponsored by some of the very same companies in the ‘food manufacturing’ category.

But don’t worry; I’m sure there is no ulterior motive.

It’s just about raising funds to distribute solid information for the people, right?

ADSA’s site offers this on their sponsorship policy page: “Various companies sponsor ADSA and all the funds that are collected through sponsorship are pooled. These funds are used in order to support the dietetics profession and ultimately the improvement of nutritional status for all South Africans.”[4]

It’s the same thing we’ve seen time and time again.

A person, or group of people dares to think outside the box and present some very valuable information to the public which, by the way, they can choose to heed or not, and they’re attacked, for lack of a better word.

Out of fear, no doubt.

If everyone were transparent and everyone put all their cards on the table, there would be no fear of lies being uncovered and truths being exposed.

The trial is meant to wrap up today; what will the verdict show us?   One can only hope the jury is open minded enough to consider what’s at stake.

[1] “Noakes, Low-carb, High-fat on Trial: Will the Evidence Ruin a Good Story?” BizNewscom. BizNews, 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Feb. 2016

[2] “Basic Nutrition Guidelines and Needs of Infants.” NutritionConfidence Blog. Association for Dietetics in SA, 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2016

[3] “Response to Grass Consumer Group Questions.” NutritionConfidence Blog. Association for Dietetics in SA E, 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2016

[4] http://www.adsa.org.za