We just returned from the Low Carb Denver 2019 mega-conference which was held in the brand new and enormous Gaylord Rockies hotel complex. It was the highlight of the year without a doubt, swamped with a huge array of excellent speakers that covered an incredible breadth of topics on improving people’s health and vitality. The main event page has all the details including the speaker lineup and topics – you’ll see there were people from all over the world who came to share their insights. From South Africa to Australia, from North Korea to Israel, from Sweden to Canada and of course the US, there were too many countries to mention! A film crew from South Korea MBC national television was also present covering the event including speaker and attendee interviews for their ongoing LCHF documentary. How exciting that this information is spreading all over the world!
The Gaylord hotel was incredible: it was like you had a town exclusively to yourself and your colleagues. The coffee flowed every morning along with the conversations (no shortage of heavy cream, thank goodness!). The hotel also had a bar with a great view of the sunset, where more introverted people could get some “liquid courage” and come out of our shells to play. (Keto fixes a lot of things; shyness sadly isn’t one of them!). It was the perfect location for the 4th annual event, large enough to accommodate the group, and right beside the main Denver international airport, making travel easier, yet it was only a few hours’ drive from the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado for the Low Carb skiers and snowboarders to enjoy.
Dr’s Jeff Gerber and Rod Tayler went for gold on this one – and gold they did deliver. They pulled off the biggest and best Low-Carb-themed health conference to date. The event kicked off with a Thursday evening reception followed by 3 days of educational sessions. It was a fantastic experience for all the laypeople attending, being that there were medical professionals, scientists and researchers everywhere you looked, all willing to discuss people’s questions and challenges on a walk-up basis. But it was also a perfect conference for healthcare professionals, given that the conference was again approved for CME (19.5 hours).
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Conversations hummed constantly all around the corridors surrounding the main room. This year there were many excellent poster presentations plus all the great vendors and exhibitors. And speaking of which – what a fantastic main room, the Colorado Ballroom A! The photos don’t do it justice. With the biggest stage & screens we’ve ever seen, a towering 28-foot ceiling, and the 850 attendees still having loads of space to congregate around the main seating area, it was nothing short of epic.
What stands out at Low Carb Denver resonates throughout all the low carb & keto conferences: the warmth, the generosity, and of course, the hugs! One never gets so many hugs as when surrounded by people in this amazing community. Whether reuniting with people not seen in a few years since a previous event, or the first time meeting folks in person who have been online friends for years, seeing faces old and new is the best part.
Wonderfully, there were people of all shapes and sizes at Low Carb Denver. Everyone was welcome, whether they’ve been keto for 10 years and are in the best shape they’ve ever been in, or they’re just starting out and are looking to lose 50 or 100+ pounds. There was the old and the young, athletes and regular folks. As the conference continues to grow we look forward to seeing more diversity in the crowd including attendees and speakers from all over the world, and those from both sides of the nutritional debate.
Now, for the juicy part: the talks!
All of the presentations were outstanding and there is only room here for a few snippets. Dr. Eric Westman had an uncharacteristic emotional moment and broke down while recalling the early days of his research with nurse Jackie Eberstein and the late, great Dr. Robert Atkins. Dr. Sarah Hallberg presented Virta’s latest research, which is so promising for type 2 diabetes that you have to wonder how much more data it’s going to take before we reach a critical mass and LCHF/keto starts going mainstream.
There was an interesting panel discussion that included Gary Taubes and Prof Dariush Mozaffarian. Moderated by Ivor Cummins, the discussion explored the balance of nutritional evidence and best dietary guidelines to improve population health. Dr. Mike Eades explained the incretin effect, which hammered home even further why we shouldn’t consider “liquid food” to be a great idea for people struggling to control blood sugar, or lose body fat.
Dr. Georgia Ede presented on the EAT Lancet diet recommendations – a global initiative promoting a plant based diet that seeks to address the environment, the ethical treatment of animals and human health. Dr. Ede took a critical look at the evidence (or lack thereof) in support of this approach.
Dr. John Schoonbee’s talk on life insurance and actuarial decisions based on different health metrics was an eye-opener. It was a nice change of pace and something out of the ordinary from carbs/protein/fat. It was also refreshing to hear the researcher Dr. Caryn Zinn’s talk; it emphasized that not everyone needs keto, and that some athletes might even do better with a bit more starch in their diet. It reminded us that we must avoid becoming “keto zealots” at all costs. Everyone is an individual, and trying to apply blanket rules pushes us back towards the knavery of Keys and his gang! It was also good to be reminded that even elite athletes aren’t immune to metabolic syndrome and T2D when on a High-Carb diet. Like Drs. Phinney, Noakes, and Malhotra wrote a few years ago: You can’t outrun a bad diet.
No talk was lacking in powerful data, inspiring stories, and good humor, but a particular favorite of many was Dr. David and Dr. Jen Unwin’s role-playing presentation. I wish everyone could work with practitioners as empathetic, understanding, tolerant, and kind as they are. Whatever someone’s state of health, they shouldn’t be shamed, belittled, or condescended to. The Drs. Unwin did a wonderful and very touching job of showing us that doctors can go beyond identifying “problems” to be treated. They can motivate, support, and encourage us, and some of us especially need this if carbs slowly but surely creep back in and some of our health conditions come back. We already have our heads hung in shame. We know things have gotten out of hand. We don’t need guilt and recrimination from our doctors; we need them to tell us righting the ship is as easy as getting right back on plan.
Dr. Priyanka Wali discussed sexual health and insulin resistance. While it was a sensitive topic, Dr. Wali kept it informative and on the lighter side, injecting lots of humor into the presentation. Finally, Robb Wolf left us with an important message: we need to come together and remember that we have far more in common than we have different, and we agree on much more than we disagree about within the world of nutrition. We need to stop fighting among ourselves, arguing over minutia of OMAD (one meal a day) versus an 8-hour eating window, and exactly how many molecules of MCT oil break a fast. While we split hairs over these kinds of trivialities, the message needs to be clear and concise. Yes, there are some points of contention in the community, and that’s probably a good thing. (If we all agree on everything, something’s probably fishy.) But there are so many more points of consensus than controversy, and it’s time to start focusing on what we generally agree with.
So as you can see, this was a world-class lineup! The speakers were truly fantastic. But thanks to the miracle of technology, we can watch the recordings any time. What you can’t get any time, however, unless you’re there in person, is the camaraderie and fellowship that come with all meeting together to share ideas and common goals. Social media is fantastic – some of us wouldn’t even have careers without it – but there’s no substitute for being together “in real life” and having a cup of coffee or a ribeye steak with people you might’ve only known through Twitter just a few days before.
The closing event – “Five minutes of fame” – was inspiring. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house after one of the speakers explained how keto, along with surgery, helped him get out of a wheelchair. A young girl told the story of her type 1 diabetes diagnosis, and how happy she and her family were to come across a physician who could help her normalize blood sugars with keto. Several doctors told their own personal transformation stories, and how they’re using LCHF/keto in their practices. Using food as medicine is the wave of the future, but something that already happens in the here and now every day in the offices of low-carb and keto-oriented medical providers.
Finally, even though the conference was based in the city, when it wrapped up a group, lead by Rod and Jeff, took to the mountains for several days of glorious Colorado skiing in Vail! There’s no better way to celebrate a weekend learning all about health, than to follow it by getting outside for some fresh air, exercise, and sunshine, and then enjoying a good meal with friends afterward. We hope the post-conference skiing group will continue to grow each year!
There are always so many great discussions on the ski lifts. Listen as Jeff and Rod talk with PhD candidate Chris Webster about how to make sense of all the nutritional evidence from a practical standpoint. This might make for a great topic next year!
And so, with that, we have another successful conference in the books. Thanks to all speakers, volunteers, organizers, vendors, and most importantly, attendees, for making Low Carb Denver a smashing success. We’ll see you next year at Low Carb Denver 2020!
Watch for the high quality post-production recordings of all the sessions including PDFs of the slides that will be released throughout the year. PDFs of poster presentations can also be viewed on the main event page.
Thanks to Amy Berger, Ivor Cummins and Erynn Kay for their assistance writing this post!
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