Noakes v ILSI ‘queenpins’ trying to nail him


By Marika Sboros

So, it has taken a brilliant US investigative journalist to expose all the food industry’s “biggies” trying to silence scientist Prof Tim Noakes. True, signs of food industry involvement were there from the start. CrossFit’s Russ Greene joins the dots to confirm it.

However, Greene adds damning dots that don’t just implicate Big Sugar and Big Soda. He joins them in one straight line leading to a Big Food industry arm. It’s the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) that influences global food and health policy. (Scroll down for a link to Greene’s report. It’s long but well worth the read.)

The kindest thing Greene says about ILSI is that it’s a “Coca-Cola proxy organisation”. He also says ILSI is a “money launderer for purveyors of toxic substances”. And it’s a proxy for other food-industry giants, such as Kellogg’s, Unilever and Nestlé.


He also shows all ILSI’s links to doctors and researchers driving the HPCSA case. I call them kingpins – or in this case one kingpin and many “queenpins”. There also appears to be a reigning queenpin. Here’s my review of what Greene shows they’ve all been up to, trying to nail Noakes.

Greene’s report confirms that the comparison between Noakes and Galileo is not so off the wall after all.  In his own evidence at the HPCSA hearing, Noakes said that he is the first scientist ever to face trial for his views on nutrition.

CrossFit’s Russ Greene

Greene says that the food industry is using the trial to make an example of Noakes, who is also a medical doctor. It hopes the trial will warn other scientists and doctors of the perils of going against its interests.

Click here to read Greene on  Big Food vs Tim Noakes.

He presents compelling evidence of  ILSI’s extensive links with assorted doctors, dietitians and academics at Cape Town, Stellenbosch and North-West Universities involved in the case against Noakes. Thus, Greene leaves those universities with uncomfortable questions on how to deal with conflicted researchers.

In particular, UCT and Stellenbosch University face claims of possible scientific fraud – or at the very least, irregular behaviour – by their scientists in the so-called Naudé Review. So too does the journal that published it in 2014, PLoS (Public Library of Science) One. The universities and the authors have refused all emailed requests for comment.

Naudé review – mischief or mistake?

The review is a meta-analysis by UCT, Stellenbosch and Liverpool University researchers. Lead author is Stellenbosch University nutrition researcher Dr Celeste Naudé. Naudé claimed that her data show that low-carb diets are no more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets.

Greene shows many links between ILSI, Big Soda, Big Sugar and the Naudé Review. Big Sugar has funded Naudé’s research. ILSI and Big Sugar have funded co-author, UCT nutrition professor Marjanne Senekel.

Senekal didn’t think to mention those conflicts in the Naudé Review.

Greene picked up another interesting link: a media report that ILSI trustee Prof Nelia Steyn was “involved” in the review. However, her name doesn’t appear in the published study. He asks whether this was “yet another example of hidden ILSI influence?”.

Evidence at the hearing shows that the HPCSA used the review to charge Noakes and has based much of its case against him on it.

Click here to read: Proof that SA scientists tried to smear him?

Noakes and UK obesity researcher Dr Zoé Harcombe reviewed the Naudé Review and published their findings in the SAMJ (South African Medical Journal) in  December 2016. They have identified multiple material flaws and say that the review’s conclusions are not robust. They raised the question: mistake or mischief. If they are right, as they appear to be, the journal will have to retract.

ILSI and ADSA links

Naudé said via email that the authors would respond directly to the SAMJ. They have yet to do so. Their only response so far was a press statement late December 2016 that hasn’t helped their credibility.  It contained so many factual errors that Noakes and Harcombe say it suggests even more mischief .

Dietitian Claire Julsing Strydom’s website before she removed reference to Kellogg’s

Greene has also documented many links between ILSI and the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA). He shows why Johannesburg dietitian Claire Julsing Strydom and ADSA are not driving the HPCSA trial. They are probably patsies as much as proxies in Big Sugar and Big Soda’s war against dissenting scientists.

“To be sure, Strydom was president of (ADSA) when she filed her complaint,” Greene says.

More importantly perhaps, he notes that Strydom is a consultant for Kellogg’s. He shows how she has sanitised her website recently to remove references to Kellogg’s.

As well, he shows how ILSI established a Nutrition Task Force (NTF) in May 2014 a few short weeks before the first HPCSA hearing against Noakes.


My reading of his report is that the real drivers are indeed the ILSI kingpins and queenpins.

Prof Marjanne Senekal with HPCSA advocate Ajay Bhoopchand

They include two former ILSI presidents, paediatrician Dr Muhammed Ali Dhansay and North-West nutrition professor and ADSA member Hester “Este” Vorster and UCT nutrition professor Marjanne Senekal.

North-West University nutrition professor Salome Kruger, doesn’t appear to have ILSI links. However, Greene notes Kruger’s long history of  Big Sugar-funded research.

Former CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of SA (HSFSA) Dr Vash Munghal-Singh could be another queenpin. Heart Foundations worldwide are Big Sugar – and Big Pharma – proxies, as CrossFit shows.

Dr Vash Munghal-Singh

Munghal-Singh’s crown as a queenpin is covered in the HPCSA hearing. However, Greene also notes that she has been an ILSI SA trustee for years. And that she used the Naudé Review to state publicly thatbased on the current evidence  (the HSFSA) cannot recommend a low-carbohydrate diet to the public”.

Greene noted that Unilever, the world’s largest ice cream manufacturer, is a financially supporting member of ILSI SA.

Heart Foundation COIs

“Perhaps it’s not a coincidence, then, that Unilever is also a Gold Sponsor of (the) Heart and Stroke Foundation (of SA),” he writes.

Munghal-Singh also wrote an “open letter to Noakes” in 2013. In it, she says that maintaining a healthy weight “requires much more than a diet. It means balancing your energy intake with energy you use through exercise.”

Coca-Cola promoted that message through its now defunct Global Energy Balance Network to sell its products to adults and children.

Other ILSI queenpins’ interests are easier to spot since Greene’s report. However, if there’s any reigning monarch of queenpins, Senekal is probably it. She pops up in the Naudé Review. She was the likely driver behind the “UCT academics letter” to the press in 2014 attacking Noakes in inflammatory, possibly defamatory language (according to legal experts).

Greene summarises: A former ILSI South Africa president (Vorster) convinced the HPCSA to charge Noakes basically for disgreeing with her on nutrition and was an expert witness against him. Former ILSI South Africa president (Dhansay) was an expert witness against him. Senekal, who ILSI funded in a study in August 2016, consulted for the legal team prosecuting him.

ILSI -‘Coca-Cola’s toxic brainchild’

And yet, Greene says, not a single mainstream news story has connected ILSI to the Noakes trial.

ILSI will vigorously deny involvement in Noakes’ trial. Just as it has denied being a tobacco industry front despite evidence to the contrary. A World Health Organisation report shows industry funding of and involvement in “seemingly unbiased scientific groups to manipulate political and scientific debate concerning tobacco and health”.

The US Right To Know website calls ILSI “Coca-Cola’s brainchild”. Coca-Cola scientific and regulatory affairs leader Alex Malaspina founded ILSI in 1978. The site says that some scientists see ILSI as “little more than a front group aimed at advancing the interests of those industries with little regard for public well-being”.

It details ties between ILSI and Michael Pratt, Senior Advisor for Global Health in the US Centres for Disease Control’s disease prevention unit.

Greene believes that ILSI really is toxic: “Pick your poison – tobacco, sugar, herbicides – ILSI has been involved in them all.

Chain of industry influence

“If a health official works for RJ Reynolds, Monsanto or Coca-Cola directly, critics brand them an industry stooge. However, the same health official can serve as an ILSI President and no one seems to notice or care.”

The ILSI connection links the Noakes trial to “a long chain of instances of unmitigated industry influence”, Greene says.

“Would South Africa still have a diabetes epidemic if authorities had excluded ILSI and other junk food proxies from health policy? I don’t know. But there can be no doubt the health of South Africans would improve dramatically if they received untainted health guidelines.”

Greene has no doubt that ILSI and its proxies have heavily influenced SA’s health policy as they’ve done in the US.

“You can measure the consequences in dialysis clinics opening up, limbs surgeons have amputated and new cases of type-2 diabetes in children and teens,” he says

Noakes is one of few scientists and doctors prepared to “tell the truth about sugar loudly and clearly”, he says. Greene believes that former ILSI presidents and ILSI-funded researchers involved in prosecuting Noakes will regret their decision – “if they don’t already”.  That holds true no matter what the HPCSA decides about Noakes in April 2017.

“It’s too late for ILSI. The truth is out,” Greene says.



  1. You Go, Boy! Expose! My hatred is the FDA which I call the ‘F’n ‘D’umb ‘A’ss’s. Lies are their key forte. They are the nerve center of all the BS! And yes, they do good work in many areas. But the “lies, bs’ing, and back door riggings completely negate the good – period. Corruption galore in the FDA – period.

  2. The cognitive dissonance of these academics and practitioners listed in Marika’s article is astounding.

    However, the public don’t read academic journals. They may read articles by science journalists like Marika and Russ Greene. They will also read media stories placed by the DAA and other high carb diet proponents. Consequently the public will understand there is a contraversy.

    BUT the public will be influenced by real life stories, either on social media or in their own experience. Watching a friend or acquaintance loosing weight and better still normalising insulin and blood sugar levels, is a powerful incentive to try a Paleo or LCHF diet themselves. And if they try it themselves and improve their own health markers, then that is a powerful incentive to stay on the diet and adopt the LCHF lifestyle and to tell friends and acquaintances of their health successes.

    Big pharma and the food industry may try to shut down the spread of this know,edge, but the counter by the increasing number of people who have experienced the benefits cannot be stopped. Although personal testimony and individual case studies are ridiculed by the pro Dietary Guidelines lobby, it is the most powerful influence in rhe spread of the uptake and adoption of a Paleo or LCHF lifestyle.

    This is why the toxic anti- Pete Evans Facebook Page exists – to try to counter the personal message Pete was telling and also the platform he gave others who had turned around their health with a Paleo or LCHF diet. But the anti Pete Evans page has not had a lot of success. Their “likes” and followers are insignificant compared to the followers of Pete Evans page, and unfortunately has become a focus for anti Paleo and LCHF rhetoric and nasty attacks on individuals including people including private individuals, who post on Paleo and LCHF sites and pages. This has turned off many visitors to this toxic page, who then never visit again.

    This gives little credibility to the anti Paleo and anti LCHF proponents who past there. In my view, such anti pages onlyserve to vent anger and uncertainty generated by a rapidly shifting scientific landscape. Some people cannot handle change or alter their firmly held views. Unfortunately, so many ( prominent) people have committed to maintain the status quo in the face of emerging and consolidating evidence, they face an enormous conundrum and potential loss of reputation whether they continue their stance or, publically change their minds. Whichever way they turn, it will be a lose-lose situation.

    The Paleo and LCHF revolution will continue despite athe anti-lobby. However, it remains to be seen how long the anti lobby can influence the policies of governments in maintaining Dietary Guidelines that emphasise cereals, grains, sugar and low fat foods in the interests of the current food industry, in the face of increasing medical evidence that these Guidelines are harming the health of the western world.

  3. Marika,

    I’d love to hear your comments on this paper: “Association of Industry Sponsorship With Outcomes of Nutrition Studies A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” from the JAMA network. (JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(12):1769-1777. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.6721)

    The authors find an “insignificant” difference in conclusions from industry and non-industry-sponsored studies.

    “Conclusions and Relevance Although industry-sponsored studies were more likely to have conclusions favorable to industry than non–industry-sponsored studies, the difference was not significant. There was also insufficient evidence to assess the quantitative effect of industry sponsorship on the results and quality of nutrition research. These findings suggest but do not establish that industry sponsorship of nutrition studies is associated with conclusions that favor the sponsors, and further investigation of differences in study results and quality is needed.”

    The authors are from Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, Australia and Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sydney, Australia. I’d be very interested in where that Faculty of Pharmacy receives funding.

  4. Thanks so much for this fascinating report.
    Unfortunately graft and corruption have become endemic – it started many, many years ago – however with the help of social media we will overcome. All the best Tim.

  5. I can remember when all this kicked off and there were many silly people, including several British dieticians, a South African paediatrician, an American academic teaching comparative religion who went by the rather egotistical Twitter handle of “Top Philosopher” and who was arrogant enough to tell Professor Noakes, a working scientist, “what science is” and many others queueing up to troll the professor. It was said by many that Professor Noakes’s belief that industry was behind the unconscionable attack upon his integrity was absurd and an instance of paranoia. Well, now we find he was quite right, don’t we? I’m not holding my breath on expectation of a spate of principled apologies. I also wonder, by the way, how much we might eventually learn about who’s behind the shenanigans in Australia around the dedicated orthopaedic surgeon, Gary Fettke.

  6. Thank you Marika!

    In my research for this piece I literally printed out every piece you wrote on Noakes, put them into a binder, and read through them, taking notes.

  7. Wow! A lot of people are going to end with egg on their faces. (Or should I say, fat!) I cannot wait for the day of reckoning to come. It will be SO interesting to watch from he sidelines. Surely by now there must be some intellectuals at these universities who see the writing on the wall. How are they going to wiggle themselves out of this situation? Who are they going to throw under the bus to save face . The world is watching.

    • None so blind as those that will not see. I’m stunned at how vice chancellors at universities have simply stuck their heads in the sand and hoped I would go away. I won’t. CrossFit’s Russ Greene won’t either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.