By Marika Sboros
Three expert witnesses have flown in to defend Prof Tim Noakes in the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) hearing against him. The public quickly dubbed them “Tim’s Angels”.
The angels are: proudly South African-Kiwi academic Dr Caryn Zinn; British obesity researcher and public health nutritionist Dr Zoë Harcombe; and US science writer Nina Teicholz.
When the HPCSA’s trial of Noakes resumes in Cape Town on October 17, his lawyers expect the prosecution lawyers to try hard to block the angels or at least, clip their wings.
All three are feisty, slender, glamorous women with research guns aimed straight at the heart of the HPCSA’s case against Noakes. It has charged him with unprofessional conduct for tweeting that good first foods for infants are low-carbohydrate, high-heathy-fat (LCHF). In other words, he was recommending meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy and vegetables.
The HPCSA clearly feels in need of big-gun protection from these angels. In the legal sense, that doesn’t come cheaply. I’m reliably informed that the HPCSA’s new advocate, Ajay Bhoopchand, has so far submitted a bill for R1million for his services so far. More on that below.
Here is some information on each of the angels:
Zinn is a senior lecturer at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences. She is also a registered dietitian and director of a private dietetic practice.
She graduated from the University of Cape Town, with an honours degree in dietetics and nutrition. Zinn also has a master’s degree in health science and a doctorate in weight loss from AUT.
She is an expert in sports nutrition and LCHF for optimum athletic performance. Zinn also specialises in “diabesity”, as doctors now call the twin global epidemics of obesity and diabetes.
Her publications this year include: The development and validation of a new survey tool: The first step to profiling New Zealanders’ eating styles and moving patterns in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health; and Hyperinsulinemia: Best management practice in Diabesity.
She is also co-author with Prof Grant Schofield of What The Fat: Fat’s IN, Sugar’s OUT.
In more than 21 years as a nutritionist and registered dietitian, Zinn says that her thinking has “evolved alongside the research and science of nutrition”. She believes that “we got it all wrong with our existing high-carb, low-fat guidelines”.
These days, she is a whole-food advocate. Zinn believes everyone can benefit from eating foods that are “low(er) in carbohydrate and higher in healthy fat than current system guides recommend”.
Harcombe is a Cambridge University graduate in maths and economics. Her doctoral thesis was on: An examination of the randomised controlled trial and epidemiological evidence for the introduction of dietary fat recommendations in 1977 and 1983: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
She looked at the scientific evidence – or lack thereof – behind the dietary guidelines when they were first launched in the US.
Harcombe concluded that the evidence available to the US dietary committees when the guidelines were introduced did not support the recommendations made. Significantly, she concluded that the evidence currently available offers “no additional support”.
Big fat surprise!
Harcombe’s latest research is published in the BJSM (British Journal of Sports Medicine in September. It is titled Evidence from prospective cohort studies does not support current dietary fat guidelines: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Teicholz is a Stanford University graduate and the first journalist elected to Phi Tau Sigma, the elite US honour society for food scientists. The Canadian Senate invited her to give an hour of expert testimony in 2014. The US Department of Agriculture invited her in 2016 to give testimony on how to improve its nutrition policy.
Teicholz is also author of the international bestseller, The Big Fat Surprise. The book is the first mainstream publication to make the full argument for why saturated fats
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said all health professionals, doctors, and scientists should read her book. The Economist named it the number #1 science book of 2014. It was on that year’s “Best Book” lists for the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, among others.
Time magazine used it as the basis for its now iconic cover story in June 2014. The headline read: Eat Butter. Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy. Why They Were Wrong.
Thus, all “Tim’s Angels” are experts in all the major issues of the charge against Noakes.
Clipping of wings?
So is the HPCSA really gearing up to clip Tim’s Angels’ wings? Its legal team won’t confirm or deny the intention. That makes me think its lawyers will do just that, though on what earthly grounds I can’t currently fathom.
As referred to above, the HPCSA did bring in an outside legal team for the February 2016 hearing. Johannesburg attorney Katlego Mmuoe and Cape Town advocate Ajay Bhoopchand don’t come cheaply.
But has Bhoopchand really submitted a bill for R1 million for his services so far? My source for that claim is reliable. However, Mmuoe and the HPCSA refuse to confirm or deny it. That makes me think that it’s true.
The HPCSA will want to see its new lawyers earning their considerable keep. What better way than with time-wasting and delaying objections to Noakes’s expert witnesses and evidence?
Bhoopchand tried that at the February 2016 hearing with frequent objections to Noakes’ evidence. That elicited exasperated comments from Pretoria advocate Joan Adams, chair of the Professional Conduct Committee hearing the charge against Noakes.
Adams said that it made no sense to accuse Noakes of giving unconventional advice, then to deny him the opportunity to present evidence showing that his advice is not unconventional.
Expect the same from Adams if Bhoopchand does what I expect him to do. He is likely to try to block the angels from testifying for Noakes. Or at the very least, he will try to clip their wings.
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