New Noakes Banting book: small size, big science shift

By Marika Sboros

It’s a simple enough question: why is Banting so popular yet still so controversial in South Africa and globally? The answer, scientist Prof Tim Noakes will tell you, is also simple. Because it works. Banting is the popular name for low-carb, high-fat diets in South Africa. Noakes explains why and how Banting weaves its healing magic in a new book: The Banting Pocket Guide (Penguin Random House).  He has co-authored it with Bernadine Douglas and Bridgette Allan.

It’s available in a Kindle edition. In print soon, it will be literally small  – just the right size to fit into your pocket or purse. Figuratively speaking, it’s big in nutrition scientific heart. It explains why Banting, as low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) lifestyles are called in South Africa, are such a powerful paradigm shift.

Note that  I say lifestyles, not diets. LCHF opponents – who were legion but are diminishing as the science grows – still call it a fad diet. This book is another nail in the coffin of powerful vested interests in medical and dietetic establishments and food and drug industries. All oppose LCHF because it threatens reputations, livelihoods, practices and profits. Here’s more on why this book is a small but significant scientific treasure trove.

Fad diets, by definition, are short-lived – in the greater scheme of things. If Banting were a fad, says Noakes, it would not be still around more than 100 years after the first successful documented case. That was when obese, sickly British society undertaker William Banting published an account of his remarkable weight loss on an LCHF eating plan in 1863. Banting cut the carbs and ate more fat on his doctor’s orders.

Prof Tim Noakes

Noakes and his co-authors will also tell you that LCHF is how humans ate safely for millions of years. They should know. They are all specialists in food as the best form of medicine rather than the slowest form of poison.

Noakes’s locus standing in LCHF is well-known – unless you’re inhabiting a parallel universe. He is a pioneer of the LCHF “movement” in SA. He memorably made a spectacular about-turn in his thinking on optimum nutrition, way back in 2010. Noakes did so after looking at all the available evidence, not just the bits that supported his opinions at the time.

Douglas has diplomas in personal nutrition and nutritional therapy, a certificate in child nutrition and completed a certificate in sports nutrition in 2016. She is also the founder of the Slender Slim 4 U Banting Clinics group.

Allan is a registered nurse and midwife. She is qualified in several alternative healing modalities and has diplomas in personal nutrition and nutritional therapy. She runs an integrative wellness practice. Allan uses a holistic approach, including LCHF, to help her clients correct lifestyle diseases.

A  major aim of this book is to make the Banting lifestyle affordable and accessible to all South Africans. One of the most uninformed – and enduring – myths about Banting is that it’s only for the rich.  Through The Noakes Foundation‘s hugely successful Eat Better South Africa campaign, Noakes dispels that myth.

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Douglas and Allan made the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet more inclusive in their books, The Banting Solution and the Afrikaans translation, Die Banting-oplossing, published early in 2016.

One the strengths of The Banting Pocket Guide is that it is reader-friendly. It provides tips and advice readers need if they are starting out on the LCHF path. Thus, it is likely to be of most interest for those who are new to Banting.

Bridgette Allan

It has all the basic rules. It explains what Banting is: a diet high in healthy fats and low in carbs; a way of eating that emphasises only real, healthy and fresh foods. Just as importantly, it explains what Banting or LCHF is not. It is a low-carb, not no-carb, way of eating. LCHF is also moderate-protein, not high-protein.

It includes ketosis on the spectrum of LCHF eating plans, but is not the same thing as ketoacidosis. Ketosis is a perfectly normal, benign, bodily state. Not so ketoacidosis. It is a rare, potentially fatal condition seen mostly in uncontrolled type 1 diabetes.

Yet many doctors and dietitians still conflate LCHF and ketosis with ketoacidosis. That’s one reason behind the rampant fear-mongering that still swirls around LCHF lifestyles.

However, for those already on board with Banting philosophy, it also has relevance. It answers questions and offers information on how to get the most out of the lifestyle.

The Foundation says that the book aims to offer “affordable solutions and include products that are more accessible to people of all walks of life”. None of the authors says that LCHF is a one-size-fits-all eating plan. They offer it as an alternative, a personal choice. In essence, it is a handy reference for those who have grown sick and fat on conventional, low-fat, high-carb diets, as many have worldwide.

None of the authors says that LCHF is a one-size-fits-all eating plan. They offer it as an alternative, a personal choice. In essence, it is a handy reference for those who have grown sick and fat on conventional, low-fat, high-carb diets, as many have worldwide.

Bernadine Douglas

With that in mind, the book has tips on “conscientious shopping”, Banting on a budget and staying on track when eating out and socialising. The authors explain, albeit briefly, why it is possible to be a vegetarian on Banting.  That’s one area that could do with development in future.

An important section on the “good, the bad and the ugly” of Banting products is food labels. The authors say that despite new labeling regulations for South African products, there are still many wrongly labeled products out there.

They show you how to keep a sharp eye open for deceptive or ambiguous claims. Chief among these are:

  • “Diabetic” products, such as sugars and jams that claim to be safe for diabetics. These usually contain artificial sugars that are harmful, or fructose, which is as bad as sugar.
  • Products with endorsements from health foundations. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of SA is an egregious example. It endorses certain margarines as “heart healthy”. However, the authors say that if you look at margarine ingredients, you’ll see that they contain vegetable oils. They recommend that you stay “far, far away”.

If you want to treat or prevent health problems, I recommend that you keep this book close to your heart and mind.