The Low-Carb High-Fat Infant War

On 4 June 2015, Professor Timothy Noakes, emeritus professor, co-author of The Real Meal Revolution, founder of the The Noakes Foundation and scientist stood before the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to defend his 2014 tweet advising a mother to wean her child onto low-carb high-fat (LCHF) foods.

Says Real Meal Revolution, Managing Director Jonno Proudfoot: "We stand behind Prof Noakes in his right to (informed) freedom of speech and to ensuring that information is available to all who need it. There is more than adequate scientific knowledge out there to support a LCHF diet for children and to attempt to silence Noakes is not going to stop consumers from making their own decisions as the information becomes freely available."

Banting is good for infants

A 2014 report of the International Obesity Task Force estimates that worldwide more than 200 million school age children are already overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity is not simply an aesthetic issue. Children who are obese are more likely to become overweight as adults, with all the associated risks: Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, gout, cancer and dementia (as described in The Real Meal Revolution). This probability is especially high if obesity occurs before the age of 10 years.

There is a widespread belief that carbohydrates are essential for a child's growth and especially brain development. It is also called a source of dietary fibre and other “essential nutrients” though we are never told what exactly these nutrients are. While the health and science industry is rather divided on the topic, with some thinking that LCHF means drastic carbohydrate restriction only (to ketogenic levels), LCHF actually incorporates varying levels of carbohydrate restriction based on needs.

A few studies have shown that overweight kids and teens (6-18 years of age) who followed a LCHF diet, containing less than 60g of carbs each day, successfully lost weight, without negatively affecting the levels of fat and cholesterol in their blood. The authors suggest that reducing dietary carbohydrate may be a possible treatment for insulin resistance in children and adolescents.

According to the soon-to-be-released book (September 2015) co-authored by Tim Noakes, Jonno Proudfoot and Bridget Surtees: Raising Superheroes : “The three fundamental pillars of advice for children’s nutrition are to eliminate (or drastically reduce) sugar and refined carbohydrates from the diet and to include real, non-processed whole foods.”

The Science Chapter by Noakes goes on to state “It is important to remember that there are no essential carbohydrates and that there are only three uses for carbohydrates in the human body. They can be stored as glycogen – the human equivalent of starch – in the liver and muscles; or they can be used as an energy fuel; or they must be turned into fat. There are no other alternatives."

"A growing baby cannot build muscles and bones from carbohydrates nor, for that matter, brains."

It is a fact that optimum nutrition in the first 24 months of life is critical, and it’s absolutely essential to focus on the foods and nutrients that assist brain development in this time, especially fats, vitamins, iron, iodine, copper, zinc and selenium. The Canadian Paediatric Association changed its guidelines in 2014 to represent a move away from cereal based foods during weaning to foods that have a more nutritional basis than commercialism - which, at the crux of it, is what Prof Noakes has advised.

Concludes Proudfoot: “We’ve invested time, energy and money into the research that will be coming out with Raising Superheroes and the facts show that we need to take a long, hard look at what we are feeding our kids. We also wish to reiterate that all the funds that Noakes makes from the sale of the books go towards the work that The Noakes Foundation does in terms of vital nutrition research.”

 

 

 

References:
  • Raising Superheroes; Noakes T, Bridget S, Proudfoot J – to be published
  • Olshsky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, et al. A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century. N Engl J Med 2005; 352:1138-1145
  • Gupta N, Goel K, Shah P, Misra A. Childhood Obesity in Developing Countries: Epidemiology, Determinants, and Prevention. Endocrine Reviews. Jan 2012;33(1)
  • Steyn N, Temple NJ et al. Evidence to support a food-based dietary guideline on sugar consumption in South Africa. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:502
  • Singh AS, Mulder C, Twisk JWR, et al. Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: a systematic review of the literature. Obesity Reviews. Sep 2008;9(5):474-88
  • Gow ML, Ho M, Burrows TL, et al. Impact of dietary macronutrient distribution on BMI and cardiometabolic outcomes in overweight and obesechildren and adolescents: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2014 Jul;72(7):453-70.
  • Sondike SB, Copperman N, Jacobson MS. Effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor in overweight adolescents. J Pediatr. 2003 Mar;142(3):253-8.
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