The theory that blood cholesterol and a high-fat diet are the causes of heart disease will be one of the greatest errors in the history of medicine, according to Prof Tim Noakes.
Noakes, who holds doctorates in science and medicine, is the co-founder of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa and has published numerous scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals.
“It is time to admit that the theory has failed. We need to adopt an open mind if we are ever to discover the real cause [or causes] of the current global epidemic of obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease”.
Don’t get me wrong, I know Noakes is no fat acceptance champion – you probably spotted the “obesity epidemic” reference in the above quote, and all these statements come as a response to some doctors publicly criticising his recommendation of a high fat, high protein diet. However it is interesting to see some bona fide research suggesting what the FA community has been saying all along, that there’s more to health than “fat = impending death”.
Noakes goes on to say, in his letter to a South African newspaper
If the cause of heart disease was truly known [...] then the condition should have disappeared with the promotion of the so-called “heart-healthy prudent diet” and the annual prescription of tens of billions of dollars’ worth of cholesterol-lowering drugs globally.
Yet one of the leading causes of death in the US is now chronic heart failure caused by coronary heart disease. [...] If current dietary and therapeutic advice was effective, cardiology and cholesterol-lowering drugs should be going the way of the dinosaur. Instead both are major growth industries.”
A 2011 report from the Cochrane Collaboration found that ‘there was no clear evidence for dietary fat changes on total mortality or cardiovascular mortality’. Thus, according to Noakes, the scientific evidence is clear: a low-fat diet has no proven role in the prevention of (coronary) heart disease.
The next time someone suggests you need to diet because they’re worried about your health, have them snack on that.
If science is pointing towards the fact that we don’t know what causes heart disease and it isn’t dietary fat; and that changing to a low fat diet isn’t necessarily what will save your heart from your fat old fattie self, who knows what other erroneous assumptions science will debunk regarding fat, weight and health in future.
Perhaps, after all, we might be found to have been reasonable in asking that our health care problems be treated with unbiased respect and consideration. that people not infer our entire medical condition from our appearance. Perhaps a sports scientist who has run 70 marathons and ultramarathons can help us fatties in more ways than just suggesting how we can cut our circumference, even if he doesn’t realise it.
Here’s to keeping an open mind in the true spirit of scientific inquiry, Prof Noakes.