Updated 26 August 2014

Noakes slammed by UCT professors

Several UCT professors have come out in criticism of Tim Noakes' claims regarding disease prevention through a low-carb diet.

4 professors from the University of Cape Town, including the Dean of the Health Sciences faculty, released scathing criticism on Tim Noakes, also a professor at the institution. 

This criticism came to light in the form of a letter written to the Cape Times and signed by the aforementioned academics. The trigger for the letter appears to be the positive response Prof. Noakes received from parliament when he spoke to them recently. 

As this could lead to policy changes which could affect the entire country, the group of academics presumably felt that the time to publicly speak out had come.

Prof. Noakes has been vociferously advocating the adoption of a low-carbohydrate, high fat (LCGF) diet for some time, proclaiming it to be the solution, or at least part thereof, for South Africa's growing obesity epidemic.

Last year it was revealed that 1 in 3 black South African women was obese, highlighting the importance of finding a solution to this issue.

Read: What Tim Noakes eats

The popularity of the Banting diet means there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence amongst South Africans who have tried the diet and, in most cases, experienced substantial weight loss.

The weight loss, however, is not what concerns the professors. Instead, they are taking exception to the claims that the diet can prevent, and in some cases even reverse, a number of serious diseases. 

In particular, Prof. Noakes has promoted his diet as effective in helping individuals suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, sometimes even going so far as to say that the diet can cure an individual of the disease.

Just under 4 million people in South Africa suffer from type 2 Diabetes, and it is believed that there are many more who are undiagnosed, according to  Dr Larry Distiller, founder and managing director of the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology

The key tenet of Prof. Noakes' "revolution" is insulin resistance, a condition which often goes undiagnosed but can have wide-ranging effects on human health. These effects include bloating, weight gain and, eventually, type 2 diabetes. 

The four Professors expand upon a common charge laid against proponents of LCHF diets, that they are not supported by sufficient scientific literature. This, it is argued, is especially true with regards to the long term health consequences of the diet.

Prof. Noakes has strongly disputed these claims, pointing to his landmark book The Real Meal Revolution which contains a substantial body of writing explaining the theory behind the diet. 

Read: The 10 golden rules of banting

Wim de Villiers, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, explains in the letter that "Diets like Banting are, however, 'typically one dimensional' [and] come at the expense of healthy carbohydrate-containing foods." He went on to claim that he still advocates a balanced diet of foods from all food groups.

Prof. Noakes believes that carbohydrates, unlike protein and fat, play no essential role in human nutrition and that people should aim to get as much of their energy from the other two food groups as possible. 

Watch: Tim Noakes on why carbs are bad for you

This latest development comes two weeks after Patrick Holford, a regarded nutritional therapist, declared Banting to be dangerous and not sustainable in the long-term. Holford is one of the key proponents of Low GL eating, which entails eating slow-releasing carbohydrates.

A week prior to that Tim Noakes's diet was decried as "criminal" by Cardiologist Anthony Dalby in a live debate, as reported by The Times

We have contacted Prof. Noakes and will update this story once we receive his response. 

Read more:

Banting vs. Balanced diets 
Tim Noakes called a cholesterol denialist 
Tim Noakes explains carbohydrate intolerance
Why the Mediterranean diet may be the easiest to follow in the long run
Health24's DietDoc says we should eat like our ancestors - that means like omnivores


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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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