Tim Noakes. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Tim Noakes. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

The Banting diet guru Prof Tim Noakes has won his case at the Health Profession’s Council of SA (HPCSA)‚ four years after he tweeted a response about a mother weaning her baby onto a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet.

He told TimesLIVE: "The predominant feeling at the moment is one of intense relief. Relief that it is finally over and that the appeal judgment was again 100% in our favour, as was the original judgment. This chapter is finally closed. I just hope that all the effort put in by myself and my team will help move the dietary guidelines forward to the benefit of the health of all South Africans."

In February 2014‚ the mother‚ Pippa Leenstra‚ tweeted: "@ProfTimNoakes @SalCreed is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies??"

The complaint against Noakes was laid with HPCSA by dietician Claire Strydom‚ who was then chairwoman of the Association of Dieticians of SA.

Noakes won his case in April last year but the HPCSA appealed the ruling and a new appeal committee‚ including a doctor and a lawyer‚ was established.

The issues at both hearings examined whether Noakes was giving "unconventional advice" over social media and whether he was treating Leenstra’s baby as a patient without conducting an examination. Doctors cannot treat patients over social media.

The appeal found there was no doctor-patient relationship between Noakes and Leenstra‚ who had used Twitter to ask for general advice.

In its appeal the HPCSA argued that the protection of the public from tweets was paramount. The panel found the matter of protecting the public was not argued in the first hearing or in the heads of arguments and said that for the HPCSA to bring it up later was a "fishing expedition".

The appeal was dismissed late on Friday afternoon.

The panel found that the first panel was correct to agree with Noakes’s argument that: "Neither [Strydom] or I can be certain of what is the best diet on to which to wean a child. As a result‚ we are allowed to [come to] our own conclusions based on professional experience and training."

What Noakes frequently said during the trial was that if he was banned for tweeting‚ it would affect all health professionals giving general medical advice on social media‚ or discussing controversial medical issues.

During the appeal hearing, Noakes’s lawyers mentioned e-mails they had accessed through the Promotion of Access to Information request. The e-mails were between Strydom and a professor of dietetics at North-West University and discussed a plan to complain about Noakes — before the tweet in question was posted.

Noakes’s legal team argued that the two had planned to take him down and found a tweet to do so. He has said his legal costs would have run into millions had his two advocates‚ Mike van der Nest and Rocky Ramdass‚ not acted for free.

There was no order about costs‚ so the HPCSA did not need not pay any of his legal fees.