Noakes' defender says statins are a 'crime against humanity'

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Statins which lower cholesterol, are some of the greatest crimes against humanity the pharmaceutical industry has released, Dr Zoe Harcombe said in a Cape Times report. Harcombe was under cross-examination during the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA)  hearing into Professor Tim Noakes’s conduct.

Advocate Ajay Bhoopchand, for the pro-forma complainant, who put before her an eight-year, diet-based study on cancer risks in post-menopausal women, said Harbcombe could not refute evidence-based studies intimating that there was no study proving the benefits of an LCHF diet. She responded that the diet, which she referred to as a real food diet, was what people had eaten for millions of years.

She said data showed the obesity epidemic started around the time that dietary guidelines advocating a carbohydrate-rich diet were introduced. The body, especially the brain, needs cholesterol, she said. “Remove the cholesterol, and we die immediately, she said. Yet we decided, with no evidence, that statins work, and we try to get our cholesterol down despite cholesterol being important for the brain to function and for muscles to work.

“It (introduction of statins) is harmful, and one of the greatest crimes against humanity that the pharmaceutical industry has unleashed,” she said.

Harcombe is quoted in the report as saying that the Naude study undertaken by Stellenbosch University was personal, unprofessional, flawed and used to discredit Noakes. In a press release on the report, she said, Noakes was referred to as a “celebrity scientist” as a way to debunk his work.

“To claim Banting was debunked was absurd, impactful and potentially harmful.”

She said it appeared the paper was weighted to compile evidence against Noakes. Harcombe and Noakes have written a paper refuting the Naude report, which has been peer-reviewed and will be published.


Nina Teicholz, investigative journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise, said on the stand in Noakes’s hearing, that children should not be on low-fat diets as their bodies need vital vitamins which can only be absorbed by fat, says a Cape Times report

Teicholz said the only way she could see the world overcoming the obesity and diabetes epidemic was if people went back to eating like they did in 1965, before carbohydrate-based dietary guidelines came into play. Teicholz took a decade to research and write her book, which was received with international acclaim when it was published.

During the course of her research she discovered that the work of many “unconventional” scientists had been swept under the carpet, they battled to have their work published and were often unnecessarily sensitised.

The report says Teicholz, and fellow expert witness Dr Zoe Harcombe, said Noakes was a brilliant scientist, acknowledged internationally and what he was being put through was a shame. Teicholz said children were clearly of special concern and had different nutritional needs than the high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets in the dietary guidelines. “They are vulnerable and have little or no choice about what they eat,” she said.

The evidence was that children benefit from a high-fat diet because Vitamins A B D and K can only be absorbed into the body when consumed with fats. She said before the obesity epidemic people ate more protein and fats, since the grain-based dietary guidelines people had become fatter and were told to eat less and exercise more.
Unfortunately, even though they ate less the biggest part of the diet was still carbohydrate-based, and carbohydrates are sugars.

So even though people stuck to the guidelines they were not losing weight, in fact they were gaining weight. There had to be a shift in advice she said.


Noakes had earlier admitted that his banting books were not written for poor people during cross examination at a conduct hearing by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA), reports News24. "While it was written for those in Bishopscourt (and others in the leafier suburbs), the physiological principle is there – high-fat, high-protein food. Cut out cereal and breads," he said of Real Meal Revolution. "We realised after it was published that it was for the elite, not for those living in areas like Mitchells Plain, Ocean View and Khayelitsha. And I have spent my time looking at how we can change that."

The report says Bhoopchand put it to Noakes that the green list in his book was "eating for the elite", to which Noakes agreed. "This diet is not for the destitute," he conceded. However, he said that "instead of buying a Ferrari" with the proceeds of his books, he pumped it into Eat Better SA campaign and focused on developing a more poor-friendly version of the green list.

Noakes testified that he had developed a version of the list which would involve spending as little as R15 a day. His foundation had also been working in lower income communities in a bid to spread his banting lifestyle to the poor. "I am a single person doing what I can to get people eating healthy. And I am working with the poor, the forgotten."

The report says Noakes – whose book The Real Meal Revolution and Raising Superheroes promote a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet – was called before the council after a complaint was lodged by the former president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, Claire Julsing-Strydom.

The complaint was prompted by a tweet Noakes sent to a Pippa Leenstra after she asked him for advice on feeding babies and on breastfeeding.


Noakes also testified that although Twitter is a wonderful medium to share knowledge to allow the public to make informed decisions about nutrition, it will never replace the doctor-patient relationship. “Followers have the option of taking the advice I give, or not. It’s a space for experts to agree or challenge each other,” he is quoted in a News24 report as saying. He said through this medium, the power of the anointed is giving way to the wisdom of the crowd.

“We have to educate people that it’s up to each of us to make a decision on the basis of the best possible evidence. I may be right sometimes, but sometimes I will be wrong. It’s up to you to make the best possible decision.”

According to the report, Noakes had said his advice was anything but unconventional, quoting research from as far back as the 1800s, before the boom in obesity rates.

The HPCSA argued that it was inappropriate conduct to give advice via social media without a physical consultation. Noakes countered that the tweet was general nutritional knowledge and not specifically directed at Leenstra. He pointed out to the panel that they did not have enough knowledge on how Twitter worked.

“I am a very successful twitterer – I am able to get a message out. I am one of the expert twitterers and recognised as one of the leading twitterers in obesity research. I have over 77,000 followers.”

The report says he insisted he had not been dispensing medical advice specifically to Leenstra in their exchange. “If I was interested in providing medical information to patients on the internet, I would have done it years ago. But I don’t see myself as a doctor. I am a scientist focusing on scientific information.”

Social media was not replacing the doctor patient relationship, he said. “It complements medicine and the doctor-patient relationship. It’s not ‘instead of’, it’s ‘in addition to’.”


Noakes said, meanwhile, he has been unfairly treated by the HPCSA. The Cape Times reports that he said it should protect not only the public but health practitioners themselves, and that he and his family have suffered during an inquiry into his professional conduct.

The HPCSA’s professional conduct committee also heard how Noakes himself suffers from diabetes.

The report says after lengthy cross-examination, a frustrated Noakes slammed the HPCSA after being pressed about why he had not included appropriate information in his initial response to the complaint to support his tweet. Bhoopchand asserted that Noakes had not paid adequate attention to the complaint, leading to this point, with millions of rand spent on the case.

“This is the first time I’m ever accused of anything by anyone. I did the best I can, in response to a complaint which I think is ludicrous, and the basis of that complaint is what I've done is dangerous,” Noakes said.

He said the preliminary committee did not advise him which information should be included. “I’m not experienced in how to deal with HPCSA and these things, so I do the best I can. Medicine is a caring profession. I would expect my colleagues to say: ‘Dr Noakes, you didn't quite get it right, you should have given more information about weaning’.

"But I wasn't given that chance. So we sit here today because of all of that and we waste all this time. I was not dealt a fair hand.

“Mrs Leenstra’s interests were not compromised by anything I did. The only person who has taken any harm from this is myself and my family.”

Bhoopchand then asked if Noakes felt he expected to be treated differently because of his stature as an A1 rated scientist. Noakes hit back, saying: “I'm asking for common decency, and you're saying common decency doesn't exist in the HPCSA.”

The report says chair Joan Adams then asked both sides to calm down.


Noakes had testified earlier that all published research literature on nutrition is funded by industry and is profoundly biased, reports News24. "If they have an interest in the outcome, the outcome is likely to be flawed," he testified. "For 33 years, I couldn’t see my bias. I like to think I am an extremely ethical person, but I couldn’t see it."

Noakes insisted that businesses funded studies which helped sell their products. "Assume that every study funded by industry is suspect, unless proved otherwise."

Cape Times report Cape Times report Full News24 report News24 report Cape Times report News24 report

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