Attending Low Carb 2016 San Diego

Just for lulz, I attended the 2016 Low Carb USA conference here in downtown San Diego.  I saw all of my “heros” (haha), especially Gary Taubes.  Yes, he gave the same talk he’s given for the last eight years, but it was different to politely experience it live versus screaming at the YouTube screen at home.

I describe some of my impressions in the video, but overall the experience was worthwhile, because I finally gained that missing piece that explains how these gurus can go on year-after-year, day-after-day, tweet-after-tweet proclaiming “carbs make you fat” against the whole body of scientific knowledge and research, and that “everything you know about nutrition is wrong”.

First, almost all of the speakers acknowledged that mainstream science holds their views to be “crazy” (Dr. Jason Fung’s words) or even in the realm of quackery (Gary Taubes’ words).  Yet overall, this group of HFLC / ketogenic diet doctors and promoters see themselves as rebels of the medical establishment, and revolutionaries against the dogma of the US Dietary Guidelines that unjustly demonize saturated fats.

Well, they actually make some valid points, but they seem more as curiosities rather than compelling arguments for ketogenic diets.  So sure, it looks like there’s some data now that keto diets doesn’t cause CVD (people have zero CAC scores to prove it; they attain a healthy weight and exercise, so it’s intuitive that it won’t kill them).  And there are some ultra-endurance runners who perform equally well while training keto.  (But, it looks like they probably use carbs in competition, and maybe even throughout the racing season.)

Of course, keto diets still haven’t found much application is sports requiring explosive performance, and if they do, people still need their glycogen stores (they do restore themselves even under a keto diet).

And low-carb diets look to me like pointless torture, compared to the many healthy ways to enjoy ad libitum carbs like bread, tortillas, pasta, and potatoes.  But many people are terrified of carbs, especially when they’re sedentary, and feel that meats are a superior choice over starches.  I say they’re overthinking their diets.

But most importantly, these low-carb gurus believe their stories about Ancel Keys, George McGovern, and the 1980 US Dietary Guidelines causing the worldwide obesity epidemic for one main reason.  They believe in their false characterizations, because they want to believe them.  It falls in line with their view of the world (especially their skepticism of “experts” and any government policy), and justifies their dietary preferences.  They don’t want to hear anything else.  But ask them what’s wrong with the way people eat, and they won’t stop talking.

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3 Comments

  1. I love this line: “they seem more as curiosities rather than compelling arguments for ketogenic diets” – YES. I practice based on evidence and until I see compelling evidence otherwise – #teamcarbs. I find so many athletes veering towards keto in the name of ‘fat adaptation’ when in reality a) the body can’t completely switch to fat regardless and always uses some glycogen, b) there is no evidence that shows keto is better than a regular healthy carb diet, and c) why cut out foods when it is unnecessary?!

    Reply

    1. Well, he looks *big*, but he knows that. Weight is an issue for him, but as I’ve said, he works hard, and puts on a great show. Think of him as a large, keto Richard Simmons.

      Reply

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