Cape Town – Professor Tim Noakes has been found not guilty of unprofessional conduct.
For the past three years Noakes faced a charge of unprofessional conduct from the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) after he, via Twitter, advised a mother to wean her newborn baby on to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet.
Noakes had advised Pippa Leenstra on Twitter, in February 2014, to wean her newborn baby on to a low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet.
This came after she had tweeted him and nutritional therapist Sally-Ann Creed about whether it was safe for mothers to be on the Banting diet while breast-feeding.
Noakes had replied on Twitter: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high fat breast milk. Key is to ween baby on to LCHF.”
Claire Julsing-Strydom, a past president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), lodged the complaint.
She previously testified Noakes had given incorrect medical advice in his tweet, which had not been based on evidence and could be life-threatening.
Noakes has not practised as a general practitioner for years but faces losing his medical licence if found guilty.
Throughout the trial Noakes has maintained that he is a scientist rather than a doctor.
Last year he argued that had he been thinking of himself as a doctor he would have responded differently to the tweet that had landed him in hot water.
In earlier evidence, speaking of Leenstra, he said: “In my opinion she was writing to the two authors of the book, and how can you be in a doctor-patient relationship when the tweet is to two people, one of whom is not a medical doctor? That does not make sense to me.
“I do not see myself as a doctor. If I had been a doctor and I saw that tweet I would have responded differently. I would have asked her what the problem was, advise on treatment and told her who to go and see. I did not go that route, I went the scientific route and gave my scientific opinion,” Noakes said.
Throughout the trial Julsing Strydom has denied that her complaint to the HPCSA was motivated by resentment against Noakes.
She told a hearing into a charge of professional misconduct against the sports scientist that she was motivated by her desire to protect the public from Noakes’s “dangerous” messages which were inconsistent and not evidence-based.