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Sat Jul 30 15:06:15 SAST 2016

How children get fat: Noakes

Aarti J Narsee | 16 February, 2016 00:32
Obesity in adults and children is the "same mechanism", Noakes said. File photo
Image by: Esa Alexander

It is not fatty foods that are making children obese but baby cereals and toddlers watching too much TV, Tim Noakes testified at his misconduct hearing at the Health Professions Council of SA yesterday.

Noakes, who has been presenting evidence since last week, is accused of unprofessional conduct after he provided "unconventional advice" on social networks on what breast-fed babies should be given when being weaned.

Yesterday, he revealed the factors he believed posed the greatest risk for childhood obesity.

These included parental obesity, high birth weight, short sleep duration at age three and toddlers spending more than eight hours a week watching television.

Obesity in adults and children is the "same mechanism", Noakes said.

He said: "Just to make a point the youngest type 2 diabetic is a three-year-old.

"What has changed? Are these children not doing enough physical activity in the womb?" he asked, adding the mother of this child would have been diabetic and on a high-carb, processed diet.

Noakes lambasted big food companies that make baby cereals for weaning, as the cause of poor nutrition in babies.

"[Baby food] wasn't designed because it was going to make children healthy, it was designed because it was a business opportunity," he said.

"This is not a conspiracy theory.

"If you're selling baby food, it doesn't matter what the health outcomes are. Playing on mothers' emotions and presenting medical doctors as the ultimate baby experts helps the industry set the agenda. "

He added that commercial baby foods made it easier for women with small children to enter the workforce.

In South Africa lower-income families often wean their babies with maize meal cereals because it is cheaper.

He said: "It is utterly unfair to burden poor people with poor food just because they cannot afford it. We need to understand that if we raise a nation on this, it is an unhealthy nation and that is going to have medical costs."

Last week, Noakes accused big food companies of promoting bad eating habits by producing goods with high carb and sugar content.

The hearing continues.

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