The case of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) vs. Professor Tim Noakes was about a tweet – or so it seemed. As the prosecution case was presented, it became increasingly clear that the HPCSA “needed evidence” to prosecute the Prof. The complainant in this case, dietician Claire Julsing Strydom, made nine comments during her testimony/cross examination about a particular paper. Here was one such example:
“Before any media statements could be made we had to get that information and all these associations were waiting on that. It is not like the way you are saying it, it is not like everybody joined together to now make a statement against Prof Noakes. We were all waiting for the evidence to be published.”
The paper to which she (and many other prosecution witnesses) referred was this article, by Naude et al, in PLoS One. It was called “Low Carbohydrate versus Isoenergetic Balanced Diets for Reducing Weight and Cardiovascular Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.”
This article goes through the importance of this paper to the Noakes hearing and how Tim came to ask me to take a look at the paper. The outcome of our review of the paper was published in the South African Medical Journal on 2nd December 2016. It was called “The universities of Stellenbosch/ Cape Town low carbohydrate diet review: Mistake or mischief?” You can see the full article here.
The account of when the authors should first have been aware of this publication (but weren’t) and when they did finally become aware of it is documented here.
The first (unofficial) response to our December SAMJ article was caught by Tim by chance. It appeared in the Cape Times on 20th December 2016. You can see this here. Tim and I were probably not expected to see this article, but Tim happened upon it in a coffee shop and so we sent a reply a couple of days before Christmas, on 23rd December 2016. You can see our reply letter here.
The first official response to our December SAMJ article was a letter to the SAMJ in the March 2017 edition – published at the end of February 2017. You can see this here.
Our reply to this letter has just been published in the May edition of the SAMJ – published on 27th April 2017. You can see this here. The Herald have covered the story here. We end our letter with the following paragraph:
“Given that only one error has been addressed and accepted (the duplication), we may never receive an answer to our research question: was this mistake or mischief? We may also never know if Prof. Noakes would have suffered for years in the way he has, had this article not made competence or conspiratorial errors.”
Indeed – we may never know…