In a short period of time the Noakes/Banting/Paleo diet has become the power bracelet of our decade. Short on logic, lacking in scientific reasoning, and completely oblivious to established fact, the fad charges on under the misguided leadership of its supreme leader.
Back when I wouldn’t have given much credence to what I now believe will result in the next few million cardiac stents to be sold by the lovely folk over at big Pharma, I jokingly tweeted that I should have considered refrigerating Noakes because after day 5 of the diet he was starting to go off.
Well, never a truer word said in jest and over 2 years later the sponsored book selling professor really has left a bad taste in my mouth. Of course I take full responsibility for goading the man (yes he is just a man) and reminding him on several occasions why much of what he says and promotes is bad science. His vitriolic followers have joined in the mudslinging with only the best defamation one can find in the social media space and the occasional threat of violence.
Naturally those who have the least relevant evidence, anecdotes, and are staunch supporters of the LCHF way of life often remind me how much older, more experienced, and simply more intelligent Noakes is than I. Even the great professor himself has attempted to ridicule my opinions based on my qualifications and research profile. This in spite of the fact that Noakes acknowledged knowing ‘nothing or, at best, very little about nutrition’ prior to December 2010.
It therefore came as a surprise when in late June Noakes challenged me to a debate on the topic of ‘Why Noakes is a quack harming SA Health’. This soon expanded into the title of ‘Why Noakes is a quack and a danger to the health of all South Africans’. It is important to point out that both of these topics were suggested and formulated by Prof. Noakes himself, with no intervention on my part. In fact he was so keen to debate this topic that he suggested the debate take place a mere 4 weeks later. This was not to be due to work commitments on my part and so began the back channel communication to confirm the details and the date of the debate.
Initially I considered a change in title but as time went on and no suggestion of this was made I began planning my argument based on proving Noakes to be a quack and a danger to the health of our citizens. Something I believe to be true. I should point out that I do not make a living promoting any diet nor have I ever earned a cent from this type of work. Therefore constructing my argument was considerably time consuming given that this was a first for me but a likely fifth or even tenth for UCT’s most controversial staff member.
Following more than 3 weeks of back and forth it was finalised that the debate would take place at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital Auditorium, adjacent to Wits Medical School, on the 23rd of October between 5 and 8pm. We agreed that tickets would be sold for R50 per person and despite my initial suggestion that all proceeds should go to charity this was the proposed fee structure by Noakes’ people:
All seemed well until last Friday when I received a mail notifying me that Prof Noakes feels the title he suggested is unacceptable and is demanding a change to ‘The Tim Noakes (Banting) Diet is a dangerous fad that will kill many South Africans’.
Following this I received an e-mail on Saturday night urging me to either change the title or to withdraw from the debate.
There are multiple problems with Noakes’ new proposed title besides for his inconsistency and inability to stick to his guns. Not least of this is the repositioning of his argument into an advantageous position prior to the debate. Some, including the Prof., have argued that the original topic is too focused on Noakes and not the diet, but this is nonsense given that only one man has endeavoured to make himself the face of the Banting diet in this country. If you want to play the LCHF ball you have no choice but to play the LCHF man.
I will debate Noakes but it will be on the original topic or nothing – and therefore nothing it is. The truth is that the leader of the ‘Real Meal Revolution’ doesn’t want a fair or honest debate. He wants another marketing opportunity to sell more cookbooks and peddle a potentially dangerous lifestyle to people who don’t know better and desperately want to trust the formerly respected scientist.
I apologise to those who are disappointed on both sides of the argument and leave you with these two comments which in a few sentences probably prove far more about the dangerous beliefs of Professor Tim Noakes than 3 hours of debate ever could.