In Practice

The universities of Stellenbosch/Cape Town low-carbohydrate diet review: Mistake or mischief?

Z Harcombe, T D Noakes


A 2014 meta-analysis from the universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town reported that diets with a lower-carbohydrate (CHO) content are no more effective for producing weight loss than are high-CHO diets, so-called isoenergetic ‘balanced’ diets. We have re-examined the article and found numerous errors, many material in nature. Studies were included that failed the authors’ own inclusion criteria; invalid and subjective meta-analysis sub-grouping was used; and data extraction was repeatedly inaccurate. All but one error favoured the balanced diet. The article was widely publicised, highly impactful and inaccurate. This begs the question: mistake or mischief?

Authors' affiliations

Z Harcombe, Public Health Nutrition, Cardiff, UK

T D Noakes, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Full Text

PDF (112KB)


Universities of Stellenbosch/Cape Town; Low-carbohydrate diet; 'Balanced diet'; Meta-analysis

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(12):1179-1182. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v106i12.12072

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-12-01
Date published: 2016-12-01

Article Views

Abstract views: 7574
Full text views: 6946

Comments on this article

*Read our policy for posting comments here