Noakes back in the hot seat over tweet

21 February 2018 - 15:34 By Katharine Child
Tim Noakes. File photo.
Tim Noakes. File photo.
Image: Lucky Nxumalo/Gallo Images

Low carb guru‚ Tim Noakes is back at the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA)‚ in trouble again for a tweet he posted four years ago advising a mom to wean her baby onto a LCHF diet - meaning low carb‚ high fat.

He won his hearing at the HPCSA after giving 12 days of evidence on why his diet for a baby was not contradictory to evidence on what babies should eat. He was found not guilty of misconduct or unethical conduct.

A dietician‚ then head of the Association for Dietetics in SA‚ Claire Julsing-Strydom‚ had complained about Noakes after he told the mom to wean her baby onto real foods.

The mother had asked on twitter if LCHF was ok for breastfeeding babies. She was worried about the wind associated with broccoli and cauliflower - vegetables popular in Noakes diet.

Noakes’ tweet read: "Baby doesn't eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high-fat breast milk. Key is to ween (sic) baby onto LCHF."

The HPCSA‚ which regulates doctors and health professionals, is appealing against the 2017 finding. 

Noakes has questioned the amount spent by the HPCSA on the appeal. "It could run into millions based on my legal costs."

His lawyer‚ Adam Pike‚ asked "where were the bodies?" [deaths] caused by the tweet. Pike was suggesting that far too much had been made of a tweet, which caused no real harm.

Noakes will argue that the "information he gave on Twitter was entirely accurate". He said there was no doctor-patient relationship with the person who tweeted and his advice to wean onto a LCHF diet was entirely compatible with South African dietary guidelines.

The tweet suggests feeding the baby meat‚ eggs and vegetables which‚ he says‚ is in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.

Advocate Ajay Bhoopchand SC argued for the HPCSA that the tweet could be read by everyone on Twitter, not just the mother who posed the question.

Bhoopchand is arguing that Noakes is a sports doctor and thus didn’t have the knowledge to give dietary advice to the mother.

He asked the sports doctor on the three-person judging panel‚ Dr Bobby Ramasia‚ if he, as a fellow sports doctor, had the expertise or experience to give parents advice on feeding their babies.

He then said Noakes was guilty of unprofessional conduct.

"This case has nothing to do with doctors participating on Twitter‚" Bhoopchand argued.

"He gave advice to a baby and he didn’t have the expertise to give advice on that matter. This is not an adult running the Comrades. He is giving advice to a baby when he hasn’t examined a baby since 1977."

Noakes’ advocate‚ Mike Van Der Nest SC‚ will defend Noakes’ tweet, which he will argue was not viewed as medical treatment.

Noakes' lawyer‚ Pike‚ compared the hearing to soccer player Christiano Ronaldo who‚ he said‚ after a minor touch by an opponent would roll around on the ground in supposed pain‚ overreacting and play acting.

CORRECTION: This story originally stated that Noakes won his hearing at the HPCSA in 2016, when in fact it was in 2017.