Noakes was not out of line

DR Ellapen Rapiti,Kenwyn

The recent acquittal of Professor Noakes by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA ) for misconduct was highly expected because the charge against him was absolutely flippant and void of any substance (“Professor Noakes’ name cleared”, Tatler letters, April 27).

The desperate mother, who tweeted the professor, it seems wanted to know what was causing her baby to pass so much winds and whether it was safe to give her child dairy and cauliflower. Young mothers tend to worry excessively about their children’s winds; it’s either too much or too little, so they will look for any medication for every symptom that bothers them out of fear that there is something seriously wrong with their children.

All that is often required is a bit of reassurance.

The innocent mother tweeted Professor Noakes probably because of his fame. When members of the dietetic society got wind about Professor Noakes comments on Twitter, they went ahead like a bunch of headless chickens and laid a charge of professional misconduct against him with the HPCSA.

I wonder if it had ever occurred to them or to the HPCSA that Professor Noakes, a doctor, in all likelihood responded to a mother that was desperately worried that she might be doing something wrong. Any doctor, who detects an element of distress in a patient, will instinctively try his best to advise as best as he/ she could to allay his/ her client’s fears. I don’t think for one moment Professor Noakes regarded himself as a paediatric dietitian when he advised the distraught lady. He gave his advice based on his scientific training for free because he cared.

For the dietetic society to accuse Professor Noakes of stepping outside his boundary of expertise is utterly nonsensical because it is common knowledge that the boundaries demarcating the limits of the scope of practice among different disciplines are wide, with a great deal of overlap. While diet and nutrition are the domain of dietitian’s training, it does not preclude healthcare practitioners from having some knowledge about the right foods for their clients.

Doctors and nurses are expected to and do give dietary advice to their patients on a daily basis, given the rise of obesity and diabetes in the world, so it is puzzling why the dietetic society reported Professor Noakes to the HPCSA on such flimsy grounds and why the HPCSA even entertained such a nonsensical complaint.

The HPCSA should have dismissed it immediately instead of wasting such huge sums of money for so long and to come up with a decision that was completely obvious.

All that this vexatiously exasperating protracted case did was to cause unnecessary grief to Professor Noakes; made his low carb high protein and high fat diet even more popular than before and placed a huge question mark on the credibility of the dietetic society and their motive for their decision.

It is no secret that Professor Noakes’ promotion of the Banting diet has had a huge negative impact on the sales of sugary drinks and high carb foods.

What Professor Noakes has been promoting has been followed in America from the middle of the nineties when they realised that obesity had doubled on the low- fat-high-carb diets, introduced in the eighties, so what Professor Noakes is promoting is not new.

Very recently professors from all over the world issued a statement in all the leading media declaring that sugar has no nutritional value at all.

In England the high rate of dental caries in children has been attributed to the high sugar intake through sweets and chocolates.

While the Banting diet may not be suitable for people with chronic liver and kidney disease it seems to the ideal for healthy people who want to stay healthy.

The big question is: did the dietetic society take issue with Professor Noakes because he blew holes in what they have been taught for the past few generations or was the food industry behind this malicious attack on a man, who is genuinely concerned about the rise of diabetes and obesity in the country.

Finally, in order for scientists to make new discoveries, we need to encourage dissenting views, as long as these views can be backed by proper evidence.