Opinion: Tim Noakes case should have shaken up official nutritional guidelines

03 May 2017 - 13:44 By Andrea Burgener

Andrea Burgener is fed up with being fed nonsense dietary advice

The hugest news in SA nutrition circles recently was that Tim Noakes was found not guilty of misconduct when advising a mother to feed her baby a low-carb high-fat diet. Considering that breast milk is more than 50% saturated fat, it's amazing the whole circus got off the ground.

Sadly, the victory was not based on a real understanding that Noakes is better informed on nutrition than those hauling him over the coals, and that his advice on fats versus carbohydrates is scientifically correct.


While this trial should have led to all of us getting rid of the hideous low-fat milk and the crappy supermarket bread (the brown is just as rubbish as the white) and revelling in beef fat, eggs and full-cream milk, it seems the mainstream nutritional body won't budge an inch.

In fact, the Nutrition Society of SA stated, "The judgment has absolutely no bearing on the current or future status of nutrition or the dietary guidelines in South Africa."

Wow, there's the spirit of the pursuit of knowledge for you.

It's not Noakes who should have been on trial, but the whole damn mess that's led to our dietary guidelines.

The advice handed to us over the last decades is hardly based on good science. For a start, proper evidence that higher saturated fat intake is linked to heart disease or shorter life, simply doesn't exist. This is increasingly understood by many journalists, doctors, biochemists and others who research the field. But, for all sorts of reasons, including one called conflict of interest, our dietary advisors just don't want to know.

We need more information about the extent to which those involved in turning a Twitter complaint into this hearing are also those defining our dietary guidelines, and their financial links to institutions such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg's and the South African Sugar Association. It might change our minds on whether we feed our kids bacon or bran flakes in the morning if we knew more.

The World Health Organisation has stated that it's a conflict of interest for those getting funding from such companies to hand out dietary advice on a national level. Nonetheless, the South African Sugar Association funded the workshop which produced the country's first official dietary guidelines, developed by exactly these people. They have ensured that our guidelines toe the same incorrect line as the US: namely, deflecting all blame from sugars and carbs onto fat.

In the meanwhile, we suck up the low-fat yoghurt, get hungry, wolf down a low-fat oat bar, and wonder why all the world's obese.

This article was originally published in The Times.