Public Health Collaboration Conference in London - Professor Tim Noakes

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I have been to hundreds of conferences in my medical career, but I have never experienced anything like what I witnessed at the Public Health Collaboration conference in London on the weekend.

Professor Tim Noakes, the South African who has, more than anyone else, influenced people around the word to abandon the low fat way of eating and adopt a low carb healthy fat lifestyle, or as the South Africans call it, the Banting Diet was one of the invited speakers a the conference. For the past couple of years Tim has been involved in a ‘trial’ after he was accused of giving misleading advice over twitter some years ago. He has been the subject of a bitter, nasty campaign to discredit him led by the dietitians and certain medical practitioners in South Africa. Tim was found ‘not guilty’ at his trial, but the prosecution appealed the verdict. The appeal was held in February this year and we still await the result.

Tim gave his keynote address on Sunday morning and took the audience on his journey of the last few years. It was a dramatic, emotional story and he had the audience spellbound for over an hour. The Liverpool born and bred Professor finished his talk by playing the Liverpool football cub anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which was an appropriate theme for his struggles. As you can see from this brief video excerpt, for the whole three minutes of the song, the audience gave Tim a standing ovation. It was incredibly emotional and I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. Have a listen. I have never witnessed anything like it at a conference.

Tim was responsible for getting me started on my low carb journey and this is what I say in the ‘My story’ section of the book ….

Soon after that birthday, I read something from my old friend and colleague Professor Tim Noakes, who is generally considered to be the pre-eminent sports scientist in the world. Tim had started advocating a low-carb diet without the usual restrictions on fat. He was on this diet himself with dramatic results, and was encouraging others, including athletes, to adopt it too. Tim is a lateral thinker who constantly challenges the orthodoxies of sports science. He wrote Lore of Running, a massive tome that’s essential reading for any serious runner or sports scientist, and has fascinating thoughts on a whole range of topics (including cricket and Bradman’s backlift!). So when Tim Noakes comes out and states categorically that everything we believe about diet, obesity and heart disease is wrong, we all need to sit up and take notice.

But surely, I thought, the medical, nutrition and sports science community could not have been so far off the mark for all these years in advocating a diet low in saturated fat (to prevent heart disease) and high in complex carbohydrates (to fuel exercise). And yet that’s exactly what Noakes was saying. He even apologised for advocating a high-carb diet in Lore of Running – no doubt he will change that for the next edition.

Tim’s conversion certainly got me thinking. I wanted to find out more.

And here we are with a certain book …..

That’s all for today but I will do another blog summarizing the conference in the next couple of days.