Banters, quiche those sweeteners goodbye: Noakes
The Banting guru has reversed his stance on sugar substitutes such as xylitol, isomalt and erythritol
Professor Tim Noakes has changed his stance on the use of sugar substitutes, saying people who subscribe to the Banting diet should no longer use natural sweeteners that form part of their eating plan.
He says he believes that using natural sweeteners could take banters back to their sugar addiction. Noakes, who is leading the Banting movement (the low-carb, high-fat diet) in SA, has until now supported the use of sugar alcohols such as xylitol, isomalt and erythritol. The use of sugar substitutes has been growing since Banting started growing in popularity in SA. They are used to satisfy the craving for sweet-tasting foods and treats.
But this week, Noakes urged his followers to stay away from any sweet foodstuffs because these were “likely to be unhealthy” and could be “addictive”.
He was speaking to a group of young people who are part of the Western Cape department of social development’s training programme known as Cape Youth @ Work programme. Social development MEC Albert Fritz had invited Noakes to address the interns from the Cape Flats on how eating could help them prevent chronic diseases.
Noakes later told Times Select that while these natural sweeteners were still on the Green List of foods for Banters, new evidence shows they might be unhealthy.
“I don’t support the use of xylitol or other sweeteners anymore because I think sweeteners cause problems and can be as addictive,” he said.
While he and his foundation, The Noakes Foundation, supported the use of sweeteners about six years ago, there is new evidence suggesting it might not be a good idea. “If you use xylitol and other things you will tend to want to go back to sugar, which is the leading cause of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. These sweeteners tend to give insulin response and may end up being as addictive.
“We must get rid of this desire to eat something sweet. We now have a lot of good evidence which we didn’t have five years ago. These sweeteners are unlikely to be healthy ... so we don’t encourage their use any more,” he said.
Noakes said that just like he changed his stance on carbo-loading a few years ago, when he adopted the Banting lifestyle, he did not mind changing his stance again, due to the ever-changing nature of science.
“That’s the beauty of science ... we always change as new evidence comes through.”
He told the youngsters that he was vilified by his colleagues and his university, UCT, for changing his mind about carbo-loading.
“I’ve been persecuted for changing my mind and admitting that I was wrong. I got diabetes in my family history and eating a high-carbohydrate diet. I admitted that I got it wrong for 33 years, but I was vilified and that led to a process that saw me facing a trial for four-and-a-half years,” he said.
Noakes was referring to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) professional conduct hearing which followed a complaint by the former president of the Association for Dietetics in SA, Claire Julsing-Strydom. She had complained to the council after Noakes gave a breastfeeding mother advice relating to his LCHF diet on Twitter. He was found not guilty of misconduct in April 2017.
Noakes, who felt vindicated by the not-guilty finding, also told the young people to stay away from sugar.
“One piece of advice to youngsters is, don’t become sugar-addicted, and stay away from sugar. As soon as you do that, they will hopefully move away from processed foods that have sugar ... If we can get people away from the sugar they would be able to control their weight quite effectively,” he said.
He also criticised the government for investing in National Health Insurance (NHI), saying it should rather invest in helping local farmers to produce healthy food cheaply to the population.
“Diabetes and obesity are out of control. We can’t always chase this animal. We know the cause is the food we eat. There is no point of treating the consequences – which is what NHI is trying to do. The government should spend their money where it’s gonna make a difference and help farmers, for instance,” he said.
Fritz said non-communicable diseases, including respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes, were among the biggest killers in SA and the Western Cape.
“These diseases are directly linked to leading a sedentary lifestyle and having a poor diet. If we can teach our young people to practise a healthy diet and lifestyle, our young people will enjoy a longer, healthier and more productive life,” said Fritz.