Wow! What an incredible opportunity it was to attend and participate in Low Carb Denver 2019. This conference created a warming sense of community filled with exciting vibes and unlimited hype for the entire 3 days. I hope that I can do the weekend justice and give you more of an insight into what it is like to attend a Low Carb conference in this blog piece.
Pre-Conference Meet and Greet
Let's say you are a die-hard Harry Potter fan and your wishes come true such that all of your favourite Harry Potter characters magically appear in one room - with you. Imagine sharing a quality night of drinks, selfies and chats with Harry, Ron and Dumbledore! Well... that's exactly what it was like for die-hard Low Carb fans (like me) at the pre-conference meet and greet. As we entered the elegantly spacious room at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Centre in Denver, Colorado, it only took a few minutes before someone like Gary Taubes appeared in our field of vision.
Gary Taubes is an absolute superman in the Low Carb Nutrition sphere. He has authored multiple books such as 'Good Calories Bad Calories' and 'Why We Get Fat' that elegantly break down the false nutrition dogma that is continually perpetuated by poor-quality science. Gary gifts us with the scientific tools to view the somewhat confusing and contradictory nutritional literature with a clear lens. In person, Gary is incredibly warm and gracious. He is dedicated to sharing his wisdom, knowledge and skills with the world and is busy working on ANOTHER book despite a recent knee reconstruction! See Gary speak at Low Carb Houston 2018 here.
Gary Taubes (left) and 2 Keto Dudes - Carl Franklin (right) at the pre-conference meet and greet!
Day 1 Conference - The Easter Show of Low Carb Nutrition
Running your body on fat means you don't need as much sleep as the average person and can be ready to go at 7.30am for an epic line up of speakers! Well, I am sure that's what the organisers, Rod Taylor and Jeff Gerber, were thinking when they planned the event... :) Alternatively, it may have just been that there were SO many mind-boggling talks on the agenda that without such early starts, we'd be conferencing for a whole week! (not that I would complain about that). Luckily, there was a constant flow of black coffee and pouring cream to prime our bodies and brains for the wealth of knowledge that came with each and every presentation.
One of my favourite presentations of the day was by Lily Nichols. Lily is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, certified diabetes educator and author of Real Food For Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes. Lily spoke about low-carbohydrate nutrition pre-conception and during pregnancy, specifically focussing on the importance of nutrient density. Did you know that babies are born in nutritional ketosis and the percentage of fat in breast milk (~55%) enables their tiny brains and bodies to grow and thrive in those first precious weeks of life? I believe that dietitians can bring a unique aspect to these conferences and Lily did just that! I encourage everyone who is of child-bearing age to consider optimising your nutrition and reading Real Food for Pregnancy. I bought the book myself to add to my Low Carb Showbag!
Between talks there was plenty of time to chat and network with the presenters, vendors and attendees. And if you are a lover of food samples (like me) then you would have been loving the vendors at this event. There is nothing better than a vendor that has almost an unlimited supply of food samples... Never trust anyone selling food that is stingy with their samples! I have to give a massive shout out to the team at Keto Chow for keeping me so damn satiated across the three days. These guys do keto meal replacement shakes that actually taste good! If you have had a consult with me you'll know that I don't like recommending protein shakes or meal replacement products, but since working long hours in clinical practice myself (and having braces...) I have come to realise the important role that high-quality meal replacement shakes can play in many of our busy lives. The team at Keto Chow continued to fill my little sample cup up with delicious flavours like choc mint, eggnog and pumpkin pie (oh my gosh yum!).
It was also my absolute pleasure to present a poster on my published systematic review investigating Low Carbohydrate Diets for Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. I am so proud of this paper and it felt good to share our results with so many interested attendees and presenters. There was such a beautiful community of individuals affected by type 1 diabetes at Low Carb Denver and it completely reiterated all the reasons why I chose to dedicate the next 3 years of my life to formally investigating this topic further as a PhD.
As someone who is currently burying themselves deep in the scientific literature of low-carbohydrate diets for diabetes management, it felt like a dream when I met Dr Eric Westman, Dr David Unwin and Dr Sarah Hallberg. These doctors are pioneers in the field of low-carbohydrate nutrition for type 2 diabetes management and each of them were so generous with their time and supportive of what I am doing in my own studies. Dr Eric Westman was also running a stall to promote HEAL clinics. If you are interested in being a part of this incredible movement for type 2 diabetes management (and remission!) then consider helping Dr Westman reach more people by purchasing equity in HEAL clinics.
Dr Sarah Hallberg (alongside the Dumbledore of Low Carb Nutrition, Dr Stephen Phinney) is hugely responsible for achieving a 60% remission rate of type 2 diabetes in >200 adults using an adaptive low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. Sarah is so passionate about what she does and all of her talks are animated and inspiring. This conference was certainly nothing like sitting through 3 days of mind-numbing lectures at university - this conference was energising and exciting (thanks to speakers like Sarah!).
Dr Eric Westmen (middle) sharing his knowledge and wisdom from years of clinical practice and research in type 2 diabetes management.
Dr Sarah Hallberg (second from left) allowing us to fan-girl her as soon as she came off stage and being super generous with her time.
Day 2 Conference - Crushing Hard on the Science
There was absolutely no decline in energy levels when it came to Day 2 (yes - 7.30am start again!). This day was jam packed (sugar-free jam of course) with talks from my Low Carb Crushes. We heard the wonderful Zoe Harcombe talk about the science (or lack thereof) of dietary fibre where she courageously challenged what was left of our pre-conceived ideas from the conventional nutrition sphere. If dietary carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient (which it isn't), then neither is dietary fibre! We were also given the pleasure of being in the same room as Nina Teicholz who spoke about the National Dietary Guidelines and why we should all care about joining her in the quest for updated dietary guidelines that are actually based on the totality of the available evidence! You can watch a previous talk she has done for Low Carb Down Under here. Nina explains: "The Guidelines do not give us the right advice about how best to eat to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or Alzheimers. These Guidelines must be reformed so that they are based on the best and most rigorous science. Only then will they be able to help Americans fight nutrition-related diseases." I told Nina about my experiences going through university to become a dietitian as someone who could not un-see the positive effects of low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets for not only myself, but for various clinical populations. Nina is absolutely paving the way for people like you and I to experience better health. I urge you to go check out the Nutrition Coalition and learn more about this worldwide issue.
The beautiful Nina Teicholz (right) after she signed my copy of her book (The Big Fat Surprise)
I felt very honoured to receive credit for my work in type 1 diabetes by Dr Jake Kushner who referenced my systematic review in his presentation. Jake spoke about the practicalities of managing type 1 diabetes using low-carbohydrate nutrition. Jake is one of the most selfless, loving people I have ever met and he has an obvious commitment to individuals all over the world who are affected by type 1 diabetes. Jake has plans to open a diabetes clinic in Houston and I am already planning my trip to visit him there!
If you are wondering how on Earth we recovered from these epic conference days then you might want to check out the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Centre for yourself! Despite the temperatures in Denver being sub 10 degrees C and often into the minuses, our resort had a heated outdoor pool and a super HOT tub! It was quite an interesting sight for an Aussie to see the lifeguards all rugged up from head to toe as they patrolled the waters (very) enthusiastically. But taking a look at the picture below, you can see how blissful this experience was. As the sun set over the mountains in Colorado, we sunk into the tingly-warm waters of the spa and infinity pool (...could it get any better?). But it wasn't over for Day 2 of the conference, because there was an evening meet-up event for the type 1 diabetes community. Before starting my research in this field of nutrition in 2016, I did not know anyone affected by type 1 diabetes. During this meeting, I was surrounding by about 50 incredible humans all with an inspiring story of grit and determination as they shared their experiences with type 1 diabetes. I learned more than you could ever learn from reading scientific papers or books. The human experience is truly valuable and I am so grateful for every single person that let me into their lives that night.
The gorgeous Ashley (left) who uses low-carbohydrate nutrition to manage her type 1 diabetes.
Day 3 Conference - Please Don't End!
Day 3 was bitter-sweet because the talks were still so damn good, but the conference was reaching its end. One of my favourite talks of the day was that by Dr Ben Bikman. This guys literally summarised a whole month of human biochemistry and physiology lectures in 30 minutes - his students are very lucky! Ben is very good at explaining, on the cellular level, WHY a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating regimen can lead to successful weight loss, diabetes management and much more. Watch this lecture Ben gave a year ago and you'll see exactly what I mean.
Day 3 also brought some fantastic sunshine which led to many attendees soaking up the rays on the conference balcony. This is where I found my fellow Aussie friend, Richard Morris. I always love catching up with Richard and this time was no different! Richard has recently stepped away from the microphone as a co-host on the 2 Keto Dudes Podcast to dedicate more of his time to his studies. I have so much respect for what Richard is doing and I hope that him and I can work on a study (or two) together in the future! And NO, that is not a bag of pasta in my hand - it is a bag of keto cheese sticks made with cheddar cheese, almond meal and butter (I am totally salivating right now...).
Richard Morris (left) and I catching up on his current studies and plans for the future!
Day 3 ended with 'Five Minutes of Fame' where audience members were invited to share their experiences using low-carbohydrate diets in their own lives. This is where the emotions hit me with full force and I was basically giving my eyes a bath for the whole hour! Every single one of the stories that were shared in this segment were so incredibly unique and inspiring, but I do have to touch on one story in particular - that of a mother-daughter team who are standing up for adults and children everywhere who are affected by type 1 diabetes (and whom I am incredibly attached to!). Ashley has type 1 diabetes and she and her mother, Tracey, have been absolute power rangers ever since Ashley's diagnosis where she laid in hospital fighting for her life. Ashley is an incredibly independent, beautiful and vibrant young woman who has taught me so much about what it means to live and breath type 1 diabetes. Tracey is an absolute symbol of strength as she fights for her daughter's right to optimal health in every single minute of every single day. I encourage you to learn more about their story by watching this clip from Low Carb Down Under.
Tracey (left) and Ashley (right) sharing their personal experiences living with type 1 diabetes.
And then it was over... Though the conference did come to its end, the sense of community that was gained over the 3 days continued on. Emails and phone numbers were exchanged left right and centre as the conference attendees and speakers created new networks and friendships that are likely to last a lifetime. Some of us celebrated with tequila (guilty) and others celebrated with sleep, but all of us benefited from the life-changing knowledge and wisdom that was shared across each and every minute of Low Carb Denver 2019. I am so grateful for the organisers, Rod Taylor and Jeff Gerber, for bringing this experience to life! I am also so grateful for the Kimberley/Wells family for funding my travel as a contribution to my research in the field of type 1 diabetes.
Look out for the videos of the presentations from the conference that are likely to appear on Youtube over the next 6-12 months. I would also encourage you to check out www.lowcarbdownunder.com.au for information on events like this one that are happening around Australia. If you want a more comprehensive summary on the presentations themselves, please see the recent posts by Amy Rush Dietitian and Diabetes Educator on Facebook.
Thank you to everyone who made this trip amazing and I look forward to catching up with all my new international friends at Low Carb Denver 2020!!!