I was delighted to attend and speak at the third PHC conference in London this year. We met at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London on the sweltering weekend of the Royal Wedding. Apart from superb international speakers we were treated to low carb, high protein food, such as one would typically eat on a ketogenic diet. Instead of picking at our dinners as we often have to do with mass catering we could eat the whole lot. Great!
Dr Peter Brukner from Australia started off the weekend with a review of what was happening in the low carb world. There are more and more reports coming out describing the advantages of ketogenic and low carb diets to different groups of people but the establishment are fighting back viciously as can be seen by the attack on Professor Tim Noakes in South Africa. Indeed if his defence lawyers and expert witnesses had not worked for free he would be bankrupt. This is a terrible way to wage war on doctors who are acting in the best interests of their patients.
Dr Aseem Malhotra also described bullying tactics that had been used against him when he was a junior doctor and first becoming publicly engaged in the low carb debate. I have been subjected to this as well. Professor Iain Broom showed that the proof that low carb diets are superior to low fat diets goes back 40 years.
Dr Zoe Harcombe gave us an explanation of how the calories in- calories out idea just doesn’t add up. The well known formulas about how many calories you need to avoid to lose weight don’t work in practice because of the complex compensatory mechanisms we have to avoid death from starvation. How you put this over to patients and give them useful strategies for weight loss and blood sugar control was explored by Dr Trudi Deakin.
Food addiction is a real issue, at least it is for the majority of the audience in attendance, who answered the sort of questions usually posed by psychiatrists when they are evaluating drug addiction. Unlike drugs, food can’t entirely be avoided but ketogenic diets are one tool that can be used to break unhealthy food dependence. This worked for presenter Dr Jen Unwin who at one point had a really big thing for Caramac bars. I haven’t seen these in years but they did have a unique taste.
Dr David Unwin showed clearly that fatty liver is easily treatable with a low carb diet.
Dr Joanne McCormick describes how her fortnightly patient group meetings are making change accessible for her patients and how many GPs in the audience could broach the subject in a ten minute consultation.
The website Diabetes.co.uk will shortly be starting up a type one educational programme online that all are welcome to join. I discussed the issue of what blood sugar targets are suitable for different people and how they can achieve this with dietary and insulin adjustment.
Dr David Cavan spoke about reversing diabetes in patients in Bermuda. Although Bermuda looks idyllic the reality is that good quality food is about five times as expensive in the UK as it is all shipped in. Many inhabitants work their socks off but barely cover their costs and cheap sugared drinks and buns are their staple diet. Despite these setbacks he managed to persuade a lot of diabetic patients to ditch the carbs and this had favourable results even after the educational programme had stopped.
A cardiologist Dr Scott Murray described the effects of metabolic syndrome on the heart and really why sticking stents in diseased arteries is too little, too late. He is convinced dietary change is needed to reverse and prevent heart disease. This is the first time I have been told that certain types of heart failure and atrial fibrillation are direct effects of metabolic syndrome on the heart.
The importance of exercise for physical and mental well being was not neglected and we had Dr Zoe Williams describing the great benefits that even the minimum recommended exercise can produce.
Dr Simon Tobin and Tom Williams spoke enthusiastically about Parkrun. This is a free event that runs every Saturday morning in parks all over the world. You can choose to walk, jog or run the course.
Claire McDonnell-Liu is the mother of two children who have greatly benefited from a ketogenic diet. The conditions are urticaria and epilepsy. Although NHS dieticians do help families with childhood epilepsy who want to use a ketogenic diet, they can’t do it unless drugs have failed, as this is NICE guidance. I wonder how many children would benefit in fit reduction without side effects of drugs if this guidance was changed?
This was a fabulous conference with a positive enthusiastic vibrancy. Thanks to Sam Feltham for organising this event especially since he has become a new dad as well.
The Public Health Collaboration are putting all the talks on You Tube.
I was interviewed about diabetes and women’s health issues for Diabetes.co.uk and Diet Doctor and these interviews and many others will be available for you all to see to improve your lives with diabetes.