Tim Noakes in tears
Banting diet champion Tim Noakes broke down in tears yesterday as he gave evidence at the "humiliating" Health Professions' Council of SA inquiry into his alleged misconduct.
"If I had known what the consequences were of this hearing, I would have done anything in my power to stop this from happening because of the cost to me personally and to my family," Noakes said at the hearing in Cape Town.
He "never imagined" he would face a misconduct inquiry and he had thought the complaint that sparked it was a "storm in a teacup".
"It has been a tough time and people just don't understand what the financial cost of an action like this is. If I hadn't had these two men [advocate Michael van der Nest and advocate Ravin Ramdass], who are working pro bono, and my wife, it couldn't have been done."
Moments later Noakes's wife, Marilyn, told The Times that the experience had been "surreal".
"I never imagined we would be in a situation like this. I think their [the council's] main goal is to silence him and humiliate him," she said.
The hearing had affected her husband deeply, especially as he was still mourning the loss of his father, who died of type-2 diabetes, one of the conditions Noakes attributes to the high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet he is campaigning against. Noakes is accused by the Association of Dietetics of SA of unprofessional conduct for giving "unconventional advice on breast-fed babies on social networks".
He advised a mother on Twitter last year to wean her child onto a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.
He told the inquiry yesterday that his next objective was to become an acknowledged world-class expert on the low-carbohydrate, high-fat, or Banting, diet.
He said he had spent six months collecting information for the council's examining committee and had 6000 pages of evidence.
He said he was an A1-rated researcher, meaning he was regarded as a leading scientist by 10 peer reviewers from around the world. Noakes said he could not yet call himself an expert on low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets but aimed to become one.
Last month he submitted a paper to the Journal of Physiology in which he compared the effects of high-fat and high-carb diets.
"We are only starting to do the research and that will qualify me as an expert," Noakes said.
"It is a world-class paper; the reviews have been ecstatic. I am excited that we have done things that have not been done in the world before."
He spoke about embarrassing moments in his early research on high-carb diets.
"We were biased; we were so convinced that carbs would help people. When I read the research now I get embarrassed.I realised it only in 2010. Having gone through the Damascus moment, I realised I was fooling myself."
Noakes said that all the money from the sale of the 250000 copies of his book Real Meal Revolution has gone into the Noakes Foundation and the Tim and Marilyn Noakes Sports Science Research Trust.
He maintained he was merely giving information as a scientist on social media.
But bioethicist Willem Pienaar told the inquiry yesterday that giving advice on social media was unprofessional and could "seriously harm" the health profession.