On May the 5th 2018 we attended the Low Carb Down Under event at Sydney University. We were really excited to attend our first Low Carb Down Under event. There was some high profile low carb presenters attending and we were keen to learn and experience.
This event had an excellent list of presenters. We were excited to see presentations from Dr Fettke and and Dr Brukner. We had not heard of Dr Mason before but were totally impressed by his wealth of knowledge. In the Q&A portion of the event he was able to answer almost every question with knowledge of a study he had read. Very impressive.
The presenter bios found on the Low Carb Down Under website are below.
Dr Paul Mason is a sports medicine and exercise physician who developed an interest in low carbohydrate diets in 2011. He then spent thousands of hours reading and analysing the scientific literature. For the last three years, he has been applying this knowledge in treating metabolic and arthritis patients who have achieved dramatic and sustained weight loss and reductions in joint pain, improved metabolic well being, diabetic control and reductions in arthritis.
Dr Doron Sher is a specialist knee and shoulder surgeon. He holds a Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering and surgical fellowships in Australia, Canada and America. His passion for helping patients avoid unnecessary surgery has led to his involvement in two successful metabolic, arthritis, weight loss and sports performance clinics.
Dr Peter Brukner is a specialist sports and exercise physician and a world renowned sports medicine clinician and researcher. He has recently held positions as Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science at Liverpool Football Club and Team Doctor for the Australian cricket team.
Dr Gary Fettke is an Orthopaedic Surgeon from Tasmania who treats patients suffering the effects of obesity and diabetes every day. He described a nutritional model of inflammation which combined fructose, refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated oils in 2013. He speaks nationally and internationally on the benefits of restricting carbohydrates in treating modern diseases.
Dr Rod Tayler is a Melbourne anaesthetist with an interest in low carb nutrition. He is the founder of the lowcarbdownunder.com.au website which hosts a range of resources.
Dr Maryanne Demasi is an investigative journalist and former presenter and producer on ABC television’s Catalyst program.
Taryn Polovin is an exercise physiologist with a postgraduate certificate in nutrition. She is an international instructor trainer and lecturer at the Australian Filex fitness conference and was a host and presenter on Aerobics Oz Style on channel 10. She has been low carb for 12 years and regularly treats clients with low carb nutrition strategies.
Jessica Turton is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Nutritionist. Her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics was a systematic review investigating the effect of low-carbohydrate diets in the management of type 1 diabetes mellitus. This year she is undertaking her Research Doctorate (Ph.D.) which involves a primary intervention study investigating a very low-carbohydrate diet for the management of type 1 Diabetes.
Vanessa Muratore – While studying Arts History at the University of Sydney, Vanessa investigated the background to the introduction of nutritional guidelines in Australia. Her thesis outlines the failure of scientific process, beginning with Ancel Keys’ infamous seven countries study.
Lindsay Woods has had a long career in medical science, diagnostics and research. He takes a personal look at the ketogenic diet through a scientific lens.
Statin Wars – Maryanne Demasi
Dr Demasi was an investigative journalist on the ABC program Catalyst for 10 years, and in October 2013 she was a part of a 2 part series called ‘Heart Matters’. The second part of this series was about a group of drugs, statins. Statins are the most widely prescribed cholesterol lower drugs in the world and are big business.
Lipitor (a statin) is the most profitable drug in the history of medicine. The business behind this drug is so powerful that there has been discussions the US around adding it to water supply.
Dr Demasi’s concerns around statins are the side effects and how they have not been correctly researched. She reported that prior to a statin drug study taking place, potential participants are given the drug or a placebo and anyone exhibiting signs of side effects are then not included in the actual trial. This greatly skews results and any potential risks of the drug.
This presentation hit a personal cord with Erika. Her Dad has been on statins since he had a triple by-pass in 2016. Without going into the story too much, she is concerned that the statins are effecting his memory. This is frustrating and upsetting as he is just following the advice of his doctor.
The takeaway for me from this presentation is what happened to the Catalyst program after it aired the ‘Heart Matters’ series. Dr Demassi’s intention was to empower the patient to ask their doctor about the side effects versus the potential benefits of the statins.
The drug companies have so much power that everyone involved in the program were gagged by the ABC, so they couldn’t defend themselves in the media and the program was eventually cut by the ABC. They were accused in the media of causing mass murder by encouraging the public to stop taking their statins.
It’s hard to not come away from this presentation feeling like the parties with a vested interest, including the doctors, don’t want their patients to be informed and asking questions.
Please note: There is a lot controversy around statins and we recommend discussing the side effects with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication.
Low carb treats and birthday parties – Taryn Polovin
Tarryn’s presentation was another change of pace. Her focus was on keto treats and how to transition kids away from sugar. She had an interesting tactic that she encourages parents to use if they want to cut the sugar from their kids diet.
You need to ween your kids away from the sweet tastes they are used to. If you start making treats with no sweetness straight away, they are just going to reject them. A good tip is to use coconut sugar to start with and then reduce the amount each time you make a sweet treat. The kids won’t notice and you will get to a point where their sugar intake is much lower and they won’t even have realised.
When Tarryn makes treats for her kids she will use banana or dates to sweeten to her kids tastes. Whereas, when she makes treats for her and her husband they are keto and no sweeteners are used at all.
Another big takeaway from this, is she isn’t unrealistically strict with her kids. When they go to birthday parties she knows that they may make choices she would not agree with, but acknowledges that they are kids and need to be kids and learn based on how they feel afterwards.
A patient’s low carb journey – Lindsay Woods
Lindsay is a patient of one of the low carb doctors and was experiencing knee pain, weight bearing concerns and restricted activity. He was referred to Dr Sher for a knee reconstruction, where he was recommended to try a low carb diet prior to surgery.
He had previously tried other traditional weight loss methods like weight-watchers with no success. After lifelong advice to avoid fat, he found he had to get his head around now eating fat, so he needed to do some online research and join some discussion forums before he was convinced to give it a try.
Since starting he has been amazed with his progress. The best thing is his knee pain has reduced and he can now run upstairs, which were painful to slowly walk up before. The best news was, in the end he hasn’t needed that knee surgery.
From fibre to the microbiome – low carb gut health – Dr Paul Mason
I was really interested to see this topic come up and to learn more about it. When telling people that I don’t consume carbohydrates, the first thing they say is they would struggle without fibre. I have never really known how to address those concerns.
Dr Mason explains that there is no evidence to support the government advice that fibre is the best treatment for constipation. Dr Mason’s focus around all of his recommendations are the science and the research, and he has found fibre is not essential for a healthy low carb diet.
I was really interested in the explanation around FODMAPS. FODMAPS are a group of carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the intestines and can be the cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS can cause constipation or watery stools.
Dr Mason showed a slide of low carb vegetables that are high in FODMAPS and could be causing some people on a low carb diet to have digestive issues. These include cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, onions and blackberries. Sugar alcohols can also cause many people to experience digestive issues.
This was a light bulb moment for me. I have been experiencing digestive issues for many years, even before keto, and want to experiment with a low FODMAP diet to see if that helps. One of the first concerns of many people around a keto diet is the fibre as they feel you need carbohydrates for regular bowel movements. Dr Mason debunked this myth with science in his presentation.
Dr Mason went on to discuss the gut microbiome. It’s a really interesting topic and we are starting to become more aware of the effects of our gut microbiome. What we eat heavily effects our microbiome and can be causing many of our health issues. Dr Mason’s own research leads him to believe bacteria need a specific environment to grow and can proliferate in the right environment. He questions if it is possible to change the balance of bacteria to assist with weight loss.
Maryanne Demassi interview – Vicki (a patient of Paul’s)
It’s hard to listen to this story and not feel a little bit of anger. Vicky did everything we have been told to do and she did it for a long time, but still continued to put on weight.
She was the epitome of the low fat, eat less exercise more diet dogma. Never cooked with oil, exercised 6 times a week, but felt like she never got any success. I am sure most of us have been there.
I felt anger over how we have been taken for a ride. I also felt anger over how we get the blame when the low fat regime doesn’t work. We start to blame ourselves, we mustn’t be doing it right, we mustn’t be trying hard enough.
Vicky commented that she felt guilty that she only went to the gym 6 days a week. Would the 7th day be the difference? These thoughts are so demoralising and we constantly feel like failures.
Vicky had no confidence in a low carb diet after it was recommended to her by Dr Mason, she didn’t tell anyone she was doing it, not even Dr Mason for fear of failing AGAIN.
Since going low carb, Vicky’s life has changed. She has lost over 30kgs. She now goes to the gym because she enjoys it, not out of obligation or guilt. Her story resonated with me and I am sure many others in the audience. She received the most applause of the whole day. I am sure her story will inspire many that were in the audience today, including me.
Sugar by Half campaign – Dr Peter Brukner
Dr Brukner is a former team doctor of the Australian Cricket team. He recently finished that position and is now heading up the ‘Sugar by Half’ campaign. He has made it his mission and focus to reduce sugar consumption in society by half.
Some of the statistics motivating this focus are:
1 in 4 children are overweight or obese!
Nearly 600 million diabetics worldwide
The world health organisation currently recommend reducing sugar intake to 6 teaspoons a day. Australians, on average, currently consume 14 teaspoons of sugar a day. The problem is much worse in teenage boys with the top 10% of 14-18 year old boys consuming over 38 teaspoons a day.
Australia & New Zealand are the highest consumers of fruit juice on the world, which has the same sugar content as soft drinks.
These statistics are the motivation behind ‘Sugar by Half’. Dr Brukner wanted to set an achievable target and I feel he has. He feels people are confused about what they should be eating and decided to simplify it and focus on sugar and reducing consumption.
The ‘Sugar by Half’ campaign has included a big social media presence, launching a website and a weekly sugar newsletter. He has appeared on mainstream media programs like Alan Jones and Sunrise promoting his cause. His aim is to make this community driven and drive real change.
If you are interested in finding out more and what you can do, go to Sugar by Half.
I also recommend checking out Dr Brukner’s new book, Fat Lot of Good.
Final Thoughts on the Day
My concerns around attending this event was that the presentations would be a little over my head and geared more towards doctors. I was pleasantly surprised at how well all the presenters explained their topic in an easy to understand way. There was useful content for low carb beginners and veterans alike.
The topics covered were a really good mix of science and real life experiences. The length of each presentation was about right and I never felt bored or that the presenters waffled. The majority of the presenters were very engaging, funny and really interesting to listen to.
I liked the way they broke up the Q&A sessions and the way the Q&A sessions were run. Having the questions submitted prior to the Q&A meant repeat questions were removed and there was no need to talk into a microphone to ask a question, which can be daunting for some people.
One of the best things about the day was the food. We have all been to conferences where there is absolutely no low carb options as it’s all sandwiches, wraps, cakes and biscuits. The organisers alluded to the difficulties they had with the caterers in organising that all the food be low carb, but I have to say, they pulled it off.
At morning and afternoon tea there was cream for the coffee and tea, cheese, raw vegetables and guacamole. At morning tea, the food went really quickly, maybe some people were breaking thier fasts.
Lunch was the big surprise of the day. Before we headed out to lunch Dr Sher gave a run down of what was available and more surprisingly the marcos. How amazing is that? The options were salad bowls with a range of different proteins. You could choose from salmon, beef, chicken or eggs.
Erika and I got the egg and the chicken and split the proteins between our bowls. The salad included cheese, nuts and a really yummy olive oil based dressing. The lunch far exceeded our expectations. Well done to the caterers and the organisers, you nailed it.
This was a great day. We met Richard from 2 Keto Dudes, got a signed copy of Dr Brukner’s new book and managed to catch up with some friends. Coming to Sydney for this event was well worth it and we are in the process of getting organised to attend the Low Carb Down Under Conference on the Gold Coast in October.
If you are planning to attend the Low Carb Down Under Gold Coast 2018 please make sure you let us know and come and say hi!
Check out some of our other low carb event reviews here
- Low Carb Down Under Gold Coast 2018 – Our Top 10 Takeaways
- Ketofest 2018 – New London, Connecticut
- Low Carb Down Under Sydney 2018 – Video Wrap up
- Public Health Collaboration Conference Review – London 2018
- Experts answer low carb diet Q&A – LCDU Sydney 2018
- Low Carb Down Under Sydney – Our Thoughts Part 2
- Low Carb Down Under Sydney – Our Thoughts Part 1