Dr. Noakes knows running, but not Nutrition

Today I discovered that the well respected Professor of Sports Medicine and marathon runner Dr. Tim Noakes advocates a low carbohydrate diet.   Noakes is most famous for his landmark book the Lore of Running.

 In the “Lore of Running” Noakes recommended a high carbohydrate diet.  He now tells people to rip out those pages.  Noakes 64, changed his diet  a few years ago after reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.  Noakes came to the conclusion that his diabetes is caused by carbohydrate intolerance.  Noakes writes:

My biology is such that I am unable effectively to clear from my bloodstream, the breakdown product of ingested carbohydrate, glucose. As a result my pancreas must over-secrete the hormone, insulin, one of whose normal functions is to direct the glucose from the bloodstream into the liver and muscles. But instead, in my case, under the action of insulin most of the carbohydrate that I ingest is directed into my fat cells where it contributes to progressive weight gain, continual hunger, lethargy and, in time, pancreatic failure and the onset of the irreversible and universally fatal condition, adult-onset diabetes.”

 Gary Taubes and other low carbohydrate advocates cherry pick highly reductionist studies to support their contention that something they call carbohydrate intolerance causes type 2 diabetes.  If  someone as well respected and bright as Dr. Noakes can be hoodwinked  by pseudoscientists like Taubes, it’s no wonder so many folks follow dangerous low carbohydrate diets.

 Dr. Noakes has lost weight, improved his running and his irritable bowel syndrome and severe allergies have disappeared.  He admits that these improvements may be the result of his eliminating gluten in his diet as he no longer eats grains.  It’s possible that gluten intolerance may have been the cause of his symptoms. 

 Although Noakes is running well at the age of 64, he still requires metformin (glucophag) to help control his blood glucose which he claims still fluctuates wildly.   He attributes this to his liver overproducing glucose.  Dr. Noakes does not offer any scientific evidence to support his conclusion. 

I wonder if Dr. Noakes is aware of research that shows diets high in saturated fat cause insulin resistance.  It’s a logical explanation for why he struggles to control his glucose levels even though he exercises regularly while taking anti-diabetes medication.

I believe if Dr. Noakes had watched Forks Over Knives rather than read “Good Calories Bad Calories”, he may have tried a gluten-free WFPB diet.  He would probably have experienced weight loss, alleviation of  his allergy and GI symptoms AND increased insulin sensitivity which would have eliminated the need for metformin (glucophag).

 Dr. Noakes will be coming out with his diet book soon.  He has a large following in the running community, so I’m afraid many runners will adopt his diet.  What a shame.

Click here to read more about Dr. Noakes’ beliefs on diet.

Click here  to read more about saturated fat and insulin resistance



  1. Actually, dietary saturated fats don’t cause insulin resistance.

    The root cause of IR seems to be fatty liver. Further down the road, the whole metabolic syndrome is involved: Obesity, hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridemia – they all are associated. And they all are driven predominantly by high intake of rapidly digested (e.g. refined) carbohydrates.

    Fatty liver is *not* caused by high intakes of saturated fat, but mostly through high carb diet: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/1/43.full

    As Dr. Noakes obviously lost weight on a low carb/high fat diet, his insulin resistance resistance certainly was alleviated.

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