If you’ve been around for a while, you probably know that I LOVE learning. All aspects of it – discovering new facts and concepts, that “aha” moment when something clicks, reading, synthesizing and teaching knowledge (and yes, I even love test taking!).
Each week, I listen to several dozen podcasts (here are some of my recommendations!), read an average of one book (here are my most recent recommendations!), read several more articles, blog posts, and studies, and I’m always enrolled in some kind of certification course as well. No, I don’t “have time” to do this, I make time, by waking up in the wee hours of the morning (knowledge is the “K” in my WAKEUP+GO morning routine!), and scheduling it in just as if you would schedule in a coffee date with a friend.
One of my favorite parts of learning is conferences. Through 2019, I was in a regular pattern of attending 4-6 conferences per year, split between nutrition, business, and personal development conferences. Of course, we all know what happened in 2020 and 2021, so I was feeling a bit of withdrawal, and started searching for all the conferences when I felt safe to travel. It just so happened that I picked out 3 top choices … and they were all within 3 weeks! If you’ve seen me on Instagram hopping around from hotel room to hotel room over the past few weeks, that’s why. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been to the National Association of Nutrition Professionals’ HEALCon in San Diego, Paleof(x) in Austin, and the Metabolic Health Summit in Santa Barbara. I learned so much from dozens of incredible speakers, and it’s nearly impossible to summarize it all, but in this blog post, I’m trying to do the impossible.
Here are my top 7 takeaways from my 3 recent nutrition conferences. Enjoy!
Top 7 Takeaways from 3 Recent Nutrition Conferences
1. Inflammation is at the root of (almost) all chronic conditions.
- Tom O’Bryan (NANP) taught that inflammation is involved in 8 of the top 10 causes of death (not unintentional injuries or suicide, although the latter is debated), and said “inflammation is the cog that exacerbates all of our food, stress, sleep, gut, infection, and inactivity issues … and creates chronic disease.”
- Jong Rho (MHS) had an incredible visual which I’ve recreated below, showing that metabolism, our gut microbiome, and our inflammation level are all impacting each other constantly. Our epigenetics, or, the way our genes are expressed, influences all of this and nutrition is a huge outer layer that influences everything in the middle. Pretty cool, huh?
2. Ultraprocessed foods are wreaking havoc on our health.
- Ultraprocessed foods are those foods that have been processed beyond reasonable approximation of how they grow. So, for example, an apple is a whole food – it grows on a tree. Applesauce with no added ingredients (just apples) is a processed food, technically, but not one causing significant harm. An apple fritter or apple-flavored candy or something that doesn’t even resemble an apple … that’s an ultraprocessed food.
- Max Lugavere (Paleof(x)) showed that for each 10% increase in ultraprocessed foods, there is a 14% increase in all-cause mortality. Considering that most Americans get the majority of their food from ultraprocessed sources, this is scary.
3. Low-quality oils are far more detrimental than we once thought.
- Ben Azadi (Paleof(x)) claimed that low-quality, heat-processed polyunsaturated fatty acids are worse than sugar for oxidative stress (which is a main driver of inflammation). He directed us to watch this video on how canola oil is made (note: in the video, the claim about it being “healthy” is either satire based on the rest of the video, or someone blindly reading a script! If you watch the video, you’ll understand that it’s not healthy!). He recommends switching all vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, soy, etc.) with butter, ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. See this post for my take on cooking oils.
- Rhonda Patrick (MHS) cited that there are as many deaths (84,000 / year) from low-omega-3 levels (which we get from fish and healthy oils!) as there are (82,000 / year) from consuming trans fats. So it’s not just about eliminating the vegetable oils, but about increasing the good quality fats we eat as well! Dr. Robert Lustig (MHS) also discussed how adequate omega-3 intake can reduce the detrimental effect of fructose (like that found in high fructose corn syrup).
4. Alzheimer’s and dementia, while not yet fully preventable, are hugely influenced by diet and lifestyle for decades leading up to diagnosis.
- Tom O’Bryan (NANP) stated that Alzheimer’s is a decades-long process of chronic inflammation and neuroinflammation, that causes brain cell degradation. And what causes this inflammation? All disease, he says (and I agree) begins with leaky gut. He emphasized gluten as the primary driver of leaky gut (and, again, I agree, but would extend to all inflammatory foods).
- Max Lugavere (Paleof(x)) cited a mind-blowing study (I found it here) that compared two communities: the Yoruba people in Ibadan, Nigeria, and community-dwelling African American residents in the US. These people had equivalent incidence of Alzheimer’s genes, but there was zero (zero!) actual Alzheimer’s in the Nigerian residents, thanks to their dietary and lifestyle practices.
- Dale Bredesen (MHS) cited that Alzheimer’s will lead to 100x more deaths of currently living Americans than COVID – wow – and that Alzheimer’s is ultimately caused by anything that gives you chronic inflammation, or anything that is toxic to your brain causing too high a demand on your neural network. He sees up to 84% improvement in patients who do a plant-rich modified ketogenic diet, prioritizing blood sugar stability, reducing inflammation, improving gut health, and working on lifestyle practices.
5. Gut health is of critical importance to our overall health today.
- Julie Greenberg (NANP) agreed with many that leaky gut is a major source of chronic inflammation, which drives all disease. She cited that the average US intake of fiber (from veggies and fruits, as well as other plant foods!) is less than 50% of the recommendation, and fiber can prevent leaky gut by increasing microbial diversity, increasing mucus production, producing short chain fatty acids, reducing inflammation, and more.
- Wade Lightheart (Paleof(x)) noted that 74% of Americans live with daily GI discomfort, due to our increasingly toxic world, combined with our deteriorating ability to properly digest. To improve our ability to digest and absorb, he suggested using digestive enzymes to absorb more nutrients and eliminating bad bacteria with probiotics (see my info on this here.)
- Rhonda Patrick (MHS) had an entire presentation about the mechanisms behind intestinal permeability (the more technical term for leaky gut) and how it links to aging, brain dysfunction, metabolic disorder, atherosclerosis, depression, neuroinflammation, and many more conditions. She identified several lifestyle factors that we can prioritize to minimize leaky gut, including managing psychological stress, not eating a high-fat + high-sugar + low-fiber diet (which increases lipopolysaccharides, a main driver of leaky gut, by 71% in just 4 weeks!), not binge drinking, eliminating or reducing gluten, and increasing foods that produce butyrate (berries, root vegetables, mushrooms, garlic, onions, artichokes, and other vegetables).
6. Nature made it best.
- The conferences differed in their nutritional bias … The NANP conference is a more balanced, holistic approach overall (which is why I got my Masters degree in holistic nutrition!). Paleof(x) is, as the name would imply, Paleo-leaning. The Metabolic Health Summit is keto-leaning. So the exact principles of the “ideal” diet can be debated (mostly because, I argue, the ideal diet varies by person!). But what every single speaker on every single stage agreed upon was that nature made food best. Mother Nature put some powerful science and incredibly intricate calculations into every single bit of food she grew. Food can truly be medicine!
- Max Lugavere (Paleof(x)) went through several of nature’s best superfoods, including:
- Eggs (carotenoids and fat for nutrient absorption)
- Avocado (2x the potassium of a banana, plus fiber and vitamin E)
- Grass-fed and finished beef (3x the Vitamin E in grass-fed beef! Plus, choline)
- Fish (great source of omega-3s and astaxanthin)
- Extra virgin olive oil (helps reduce inflammation)
- Mushrooms (those who ate 3+ servings per week had a 20% risk reduction in Alzheimer’s and dementia in a recent study!)
- Cruciferous vegetables (stimulate immunity)
- Berries (rich in antioxidants)
- Dark chocolate (high in magnesium and flavanols)
- Nuts (protection against heart disease and neurodegenerative disease)
7. The mind is perhaps the most powerful health intervention we have.
- Ben Azadi (Paleof(x)) had a great quote: “If your thinkin’ is stinkin’, your dreams are shrinkin’.” All the nutrition behaviors in the world cannot combat a negative mind. Plain and simple. It’s the reason why many of my first interventions with clients are mental and emotional.
- Nearly every single speaker touted the power of personal growth practices, self-care through mindfulness, and taking brief parasympathetic pauses in our busy lifestyles. Might I recommend starting with a morning routine? You can do that in 8 minutes a day with the information here!
I learned SO much more … from a lot about stem cells to an alcohol alternative (kava) … from women’s health and hormones to listening strategies and how to be a humble hero … from metabolic psychiatry to the benefits of circadian fasting … from the importance of muscle for metabolic health to the debate between low-carb, high-protein and true ketogenic diets. I go to these conferences purely for that reason … to keep learning, to stay curious, and to continuously improve my own base of knowledge so that I may better serve my 1-to-1 clients and Revitalize members better. Plus, they’re a whole lot of fun 😊.
Now it’s your turn … What’s your favorite way to continue learning? Which takeaway was most interesting to you? Let me know which you’d like to hear more about!