This article has been revised and updated with new information
By Marika Sboros
Lore Of Nutrition is the first book that sports scientist Prof Tim Noakes and I have co-authored . The sub-title signals one major aim: Challenging Conventional Dietary Beliefs (Penguin). However, just as important is another aim: to expose the “diet dictators”.
These are the many top doctors, dietitians and academics who tried to suppress or distort the science for low-carbohydrate, high-healthy fat (LCHF) foods. It’s no coincidence, therefore, that many, if not most, have industry links.
We have revised and updated our for the international market under the title Real Food On Trial. The subtitle is How the diet dictators tried to destroy a top scientist.
In both, we document how diet dictators and assorted hangers-on regularly tried and failed to destroy Noakes’s career. Not just his career but also his character and reputation over the years. We also show why, through their actions, eminence-based medicine is giving way to evidence-based medicine.
We show how conflicted doctors, dietitians and academics made gratuitous and often slanderous, unscientific public attacks on Noakes. And how they laid the groundwork for the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) hearing against him.
Perils of a single tweet
The HPCSA charged Noakes with unprofessional conduct after a Johannesburg dietitian reported him for a single tweet in February 2014. He tweeted that good first foods for infants are LCHF. Thereafter, HPCSA set a disciplinary hearing in motion against him.
The public soon dubbed the hearing The Nutrition Trial of the 21st Century. It became a multi-million-that the HPCSA stretched over more than four years. And as we show, when the HPCSA saw that their case was weak and failing, they refused to acknowledge it. Instead, they engaged an expensive team of external lawyers to try to fill gaping holes.
In my chapters for the books, I report on the hearings in full, day in and day out. I also show how the HPCSA might have won the day were it not for Noakes’ legal team.
Heading the team is instructing attorney Adam Pike, of Pike Law. Michael van der Nest, SC, and Dr Ravin “Rocky” Ramdass offered their services pro bono.
In our books, we documented the HPCSA’s independent panel’s comprehensive vindication of Noakes on April 21, 2017. However, the HPCSA soon appealed the verdict and even went for a whole new hearing.
(Editor’s note: The HPCSA lost yet again. In Real Food On Trial, I document the appeal outcome confirming the first ruling in full by a majority verdict. Click here to read: Noakes free at last! The HPCSA licks its legal wounds)
All the what if’s …
In closing comments in our books, I consider the many imponderables weighing down the HPCSA’s case. There were so many, I suggest it’s a wonder that the HPCSA got their case off the ground at all.
The first imponderable was whether the trial would have happened without the “inordinately large, incestuous web” of UCT academics. And what the net effect of the UCT cardiologists’ letter to the press in 2012, was in attacking Noakes’s views on statins. And the UCT academics’ letter to the press in 2014, accusing him of making “outrageous, unproven claims about disease prevention”.
The second imponderable was whether the trial have happened were it not for the HPCSA’s first committee members. The committee chair just happens to be the head of medical bioethics at the University of the Witwatersrand. What if she had not gone so far beyond her remit and allowed committee members to do the same?
Click here to read: Did Wits ethics chief lose her moral compass ?
Noakes’s legal team has diplomatically described that committee’s actions as “highly irregular”.
Overall, our books reflect badly on South Africa’s top universities – UCT, University of Stellenbosch and Wits University, my alma mater. However, North West University does not emerge unscathed either.
Even the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK became infected with dodgy behaviour along the way.
And of course, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), comes out looking less than its best.
I raise another important imponderable: the contribution of ADSA’s leadership profile to the trial. These have always been mostly privileged white, middle-class, conservative women with shared cultural backgrounds. And they are drawn mostly from a closed shop of friends, or friends of friends.
It may just be coincidence that many of them are undeclared vegetarians or vegans. And that their antipathy to LCHF and Noakes is legendary.
I speculate that it may be tempting to think there surely can’t be so many top doctors, dietitians and academics out of step except Noakes. However, I have carefully recorded the evidence to show that it’s not just possible, as anything is. And that in this case, it’s highly probable. All that evidence is on public record in the HPCSA’s hearing transcripts it went mostly unchallenged and uncontested.
In a preface to Lore of Nutrition, Noakes talks about the omertà that diet dictators appear to have sworn. Omertà is the Italian word for the code of “honour” and vow of silence in organised crime. It places importance on silence and non-interference in the illegal actions of others. Noakes notes that he is not the first to compare modern medicine and its pharmaceutical-science model to organised crime.
Danish physician Dr Peter Gøtzsche did it first in his groundbreaking book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime. The sub-title: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare.
Noakes calls it “a compelling, disturbing read”. He says that it is “perhaps the most disquieting book” about his profession that he has ever read.
Walls of silence
I felt the same about the evidence I heard and reported on in the book during the HPCSA hearings. I found it deeply disturbing to realise just what all these diet dictators were getting up to behind the scenes. All aimed at muzzling a distinguished scientist because they objected to his scientific opinions on diet and nutrition.
The walls of silence both Noakes and I came up against in writing this book were no deterrent. On the contrary, those walls simply confirmed our suspicions of hidden agendas and organised campaigns behind them.
In our books, Noakes, his “Angel” experts present an alternative to the pessimistic, paternalistic model of medical science. They give the scientific evidence to show that obesity is not the result of gluttony and sloth. They give patients hope. Noakes and the “Angels” also show that type 2 diabetes is not necessarily a chronic, progressive disease. Patients don’t always have to fill medical and drug company coffers by taking drugs for the rest of their lives.
The author of the foreword in Lore of Nutrition is Prof JP van Niekerk, former dean of UCT medical school. He writes that changing beliefs is “incredibly hard”. Beliefs are wired into our limbic system and are “not readily amenable to our thinking brain”, Van Niekerk says.
Confirmation bias protects our beliefs from “any opposing and uncomfortable facts”, he says.
“But a fundamental characteristic of science is to constantly challenge beliefs. Noakes bravely confessed the errors of his previous beliefs about carbohydrates when he started studying evidence that was new to him.”
Van Niekerk says that Noakes’s views are simply a “reflection of a worldwide re-examination of the basis of the beliefs in “conventional’ nutrition”. Research has “shifted the ground”, he says.
There’s good reason, he says, that “conventional” nutrition increasingly finds itself having to defend its contribution to global obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Van Niekerk is gently critical of the many medical and other healthcare professionals who oppose Noakes. They benefit from reviewing the depth of evidence he and his expert witnesses presented at the hearing. Or they need to provide “a convincing rebuttal”, he says.
To date, they have not been able to do so.
Van Niekerk is critical of the HPCSA’s case against Noakes and the appeal. He compares it to two other notable challenged cases. The first was black consciousness leader Steve Biko. The second was apartheid-era doctor Wouter Basson. In both cases, the HPCSA “bowed to outside pressures”.
Van Niekerk’s opinion of the HPCSA’s appeal is low. He believes that it won’t just be a “fruitless” waste of money. It is starting to like a “religious persecution of those of another persuasion”.
HPCSA hearings are also “not the appropriate mechanism to resolve such major and complex academic debates”, he says.
Thus, Noakes’s message to readers in both Lore of Nutrition and Real Food on Trial becomes vital:
“All people are entitled to their own opinions. But not to their own set of facts. So do not believe what you want to believe. Believe what the facts tell you is the truth.”
He speaks here in the context of junk diets, embedded scientists, corrupt – or simply ignorant – doctors and dietitians. He is also talking about human health and omertàs.
Noakes reminds you that what you believe about your personal nutrition “will determine not just how you live, but also how you die”.
- Lore Of Nutrition (Penguin) and Real Food On Trial (Columbus), are available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon and an audio version on Audible by Tantor media.
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Have followed this witch hunt from the beginning thanks to Marika….but still found this book fascinating. Can’t believe the HPCSA and their dietician cronies want more egg on their pre-diabetic faces by pursuing an appeal. We all owe Prof Noakes a great debt of gratitude. Hope this has moved the discussion forward a pace. Thank goodness he has held strong and hope he takes great strength from his many millions of supporters around the world who understand exactly what he is talking about…..unlike his colleagues and professional organisation. What a clever and humble man he is…..Who could blame him if he decides to take legal action, himself. Thank god for the Internet I say or my health would be considerably worse. If the time comes for us to rise up, count me in.
Thank you, Carol. I will pass on your comments to Prof Noakes. Many doctors, dietitians, scientists and academics have seen through the HPCSA’s trial for the witch hunt it was – and still is. The HPCSA appears determined to continue persecuting him. They don’t just want to overturn the verdict but a whole new trial. Breathtaking in its venom and malice against a distinguished doctor and scientist.
I just got back from seeing my doctor – first time in nearly a year. One reason was that she texted me to point out how long it was since I last had my TSH measured (hyperthyroid), the other was that I had developed blepharitis, pretty much the first infection I’ve had in over 12 years of low carb/paleo/keto and which may well be related to my thyroid going off on one.
When I first saw her over 12 years ago I was a whisker away from being diagnosed diabetic, I’d put on 15kg thanks to my previous doctor’s dietician, was riddled with minor but chronic infections including gum disease, my blood pressure was going through the roof and my lipids were in the toilet despite the statins and BP meds, not to mention the H2 blockers (GERD) and the antidepressants.
All of those things improved or resolved completely, but she was then very paranoid about the “harm” of not basing every meal on starchy carbohydrates and “heart healthy” vegetable oils.
She has since come around, in part because she has witnessed my own improvements and those of other patients, and also because she is no longer under so much pressure to conform to Conventional Wisdom from the PCT, Practice Manager, etc.
Last time I saw her she noted that “by now we would have expected you to be on two or three diabetes medications” – instead I am not only on none but have ditched EVERYTHING else except for a minimal dose of Amlodipine – and Carbimazole for my thyroid which suddenly exploded a couple of years ago (probably autoimmune). I pointed her to David Unwin on Twitter and suggested if she ever found time she should follow up some of the links to other doctors, credible researchers and the many quoted research papers.
This time she said “you are twenty years ahead of your time! One day we will be recommending this!”
She was running twenty minutes late and very frazzled so I didn’t stop for a chat, but I will probably snail-mail her some further information – especially that I am actually about fifty years BEHIND the times as everything I have been doing was well known and even recommended in the past, before “low fat” bulldozed it into the weeds.
My spies tell me there are now more than 150 UK doctors on board – but still quietly as our dieticians are looking for a head on a spike too – probably Aseem Malhotra.
It’s blatantly obvious that “Sue” is either yet another disgruntled dietician, or a vegan, or both. Or maybe a lawyer, and “sue” is her intention, not her name, and all the carbs had her confused.
I just went back and revisited your post about Evelyne Bourdua-Roy and re-read her article
still a bit amazed that D*vid K*tz never showed up to rubbish her as the Attack Dietician there (plant based of course) was doing such a poor job. They and their doctor troll mates are so convinced that they will “win” because they have all the money backing them up that they don’t need trivial things like science, or outcomes, to get in their way.
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have the first of his season’s pheasants to digest, along with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts (and BACON!)
Well said, Chris. They have all the money but success like yours has influence with those who see it. It might be slow, but we might win this battle with each success and the converts that follow. I spoke to someone I knew working in health yesterday and by the end of the day he was researching Dr Unwin, Dr Hallberg and diabetes. He’ll tell others and so it goes. Completely discredited dietitians can offer nothing but more failure and illness.
They have money and an ever worsening situation. We just have success to tell to our friends and colleagues.
We also have history on our side, my mother could remember when dieting was called “Banting” the first time around. And hey, it worked then too.
I see what’s happening now as a pincer movement. There must by now be hundreds of thousands of successful patients of all kinds working from the ground up, so many that it becomes hard to discredit them all as “just anecdotes”. From the top down there must by now be hundreds of researchers who are rediscovering and developing the work of people from Weston A Price through John Yudkin, Peter Cleave, Joseph Kraft, Gerald Reaven and so many others. Bernard Lown and Bill Lands are recent discoveries, then there are/were Fred Kummerow, Mary Enig, Richard Bernstein and other “mavericks” I could go on but it would get boring.
Even as more doctors and dieticians reject Conventional Wisdom for what actually works, so the rest are becoming more entrenched in their positions and defending the indefensible in the most ludicrous ways. The latest move is to diagnose everyone not eating high carb low fat with an Eating Disorder, yet in retrospect it is the ultimate “fad diet” which has only existed for a few decades during which it has done untold harm to millions, but made a lot of profits.
I suspect Tim Noakes is seen as extra offensive because he used to Believe, but rejected his beliefs in favour of reality when he saw them fail so often.
Sue – many congratulations for doing so well and your GP recognising the benefits. Are you aware of the Public Health Collaboration and their Real Food GP register – https://phcuk.org/map/? You may be able to suggest to your GP that it can become general medicine far more quickly than 20 years! It is us patients educating our GPs these days. Even the brilliant Dr. Unwin’s journey started from a patient who had reversed her T2 diabetes and he always believed it was a progressive degenerative condition. That was only 5 years ago.
Marika – many congratulations on the way you have supported Prof. Noakes through the trial and the publication of the Lore of Nutrition and kept us all so wonderfully informed through this blog and your tweets during the trial. I have not quite finished reading the book and keep describing it as like reading a thriller, except the tragedy is this is the truth. Looking forward to the days when we have a true ‘Health Care Service’ rather than the current ‘Sickness Care System’. Thank you
Thank you, Fiona. It has been a remarkable, ongoing journey. As a journalist, I started out sceptical. I interrogated Prof Noakes on the science from the start. Couldn’t fault him, tried hard though I did. I also tried hard to get his critics to stop making personal vicious attacks on him and instead to stick to the science. Kept asking them: show me the science to show that he’s wrong. I’m still waiting. You are right in your assessment of the book. The truth that lies at its heart really is stranger than fiction. And it reveals the depth of the human suffering, all of it needless. Fortunately, truth and good triumphed in the end. Still, I spent much time in horrified fascinated at the depths to which so many prominent doctors, dietitians and academics were willing to sink. Just to try to destroy one man because they disagreed with him scientifically. Not just the injustice but the inhumanity and lack of compassion they displayed I still find hard to comprehend fully.
Couldn’t wait for the hard copy, went for kindle in the interim. Another great “nutrition thriller” ! Brilliant! If this were fiction it would make a very satisfying read but the fact the Prof Noakes has had to endure such remorseless spite just makes me gut wrenchingly sad and mad! But well done Marika and Prof Noakes!
By internalising Tim Noakes research, culminating in the LCHF eating plan, not only have I lost weight, gained energy and recovered from being a sugarholic, but I have also stopped taking two sets of medicines, which looked set to be taken for life, prescribed to control a “huge” Hiatus Hernia . My “specialist” shrugged when I said that I knew I should change my eating habits, offering no advice or even comment, just prescriptions.
Thank you Tim and colleagues for giving us the wherewithal to eat properly and regain health – and make shopping so much easier as after going down one, or perhaps two, aisles of the supermarket, we are done!
A perfect title for a book by this nutrition fraud – lore – a fairytale, myth.
Sue, that’s abuse, not an argument.
Why does Tim Noakes ‘fraud’ work so consistently and the orthodoxy fail so badly? What’s the science behind your position? Why did obesity and diabetes explode in the western world when we went low-fat?
Have you the first idea of any real science on this subject when you criticise someone so highly regarded around the world?
You make excellent points, as usual Stephen and you ask the right questions. I look forward to receiving the answers from Sue. She also needs to check real meaning of words.Lore: a body of traditions and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth.
If I understand Sue correctly then she is accusing the author(s) of being a fraud. Correct if I am wrong please Sue because fraud is a very serious allegation and I would like to hear some substantiation. You owe it to all of us who may be misguidedly following a low carb lifestyle
Any science behind your comments, Sue? As Prof Noakes and I are co-authors, presumably you have evidence of fraud? Interested to see it.
Excellent response Marika.
Except that in responding Marika is feeding that troll. Such an unsubstantiated and bitter one liner, with no author identification, deserves to be ignored. Or, in the case of a moderated comment section, it shouldn’t be published.
Good point! I’m new to the moderation game. Was trying to be inclusive of opinions, even the ignorant ones that are really just bile. Will be more discriminate in moderation in future!