That is the best word to describe the 6th biannual ketogenic diet conference held on Jeju Island off the southern coast of South Korea October 5-9. This was the intention of the organizers… and I think it satisfied that mission. Dr. Heung Dong Kim and his excellent team from Severance Children’s Hospital in Seoul were the primary organizers and strove to make this conference different from the five before it.
What was different?
There was a strong Asian presence at the meeting such as never seen before. The five previous meetings were held in North America and England; this was the first time it was held in Asia.
- Of the 635 registered attendees from 54 countries, more than half were from Asia and many were brand new ketogenic diet centers.
- I cannot recall a ketogenic diet conference with so many new faces, centers, and different ways of providing the diet. Notable new centers include Mongolia, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Romania.
- Some centers are using the ketogenic diet without a dietitian. Several are focusing on select epilepsy syndromes. Others are even starting to organize and engage in research projects.
- The poster session on Sunday evening had about 150 posters, of which 72% were from countries other than the USA, Canada, and England.
- Most of the meeting on Monday was devoted to back-to-back, 15-minute lectures from centers sharing their personal challenges and creative solutions, including (in order) China, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Pakistan, Ghana, Thailand, and Iran.
Renewed Epilepsy Focus
The scientific focus was also different than previous meetings, with a renewed emphasis on epilepsy.
- Previous meetings had shifted the emphasis slightly towards other neurological disorders for which ketogenic diet therapies could be helpful, including cancer, dementia, and autism.
- Although discussed at this meeting, most of these lectures were basic science and limited.
- In addition, there were several epilepsy pharmaceutical companies present alongside the ketogenic diet formula companies in the exhibit area.
- An entire session on Sunday was geared towards discussing the recent findings linking ketogenic diet mechanisms of action and changes in the gut microbiome, profiled in the last Keto News.
- Additionally, an entire main session on Sunday afternoon delved into using the ketogenic diet for emergencies (e.g., status epilepticus), another “hot” topic.
- Other new topics included the 2018 ketogenic diet revised consensus guideline, identifying genetic predictors for ketogenic diet success, improving compliance, and anti-inflammatory effects of ketogenic therapy.
- On Monday evening at the close of the conference, Dr. Jong Rho received the meeting’s John Freeman Award for advancing ketogenic therapies and Eunjoo Lee RD received the Millicent Kelly Award for dietitians.
- A family support day was convened on the final day (Tuesday) for parents, patients and caregivers to hear from the experts.
The other star of the conference was the island of Jeju itself. Conference guests and speakers were not deterred by Super-Typhoon Kong-Rey, which hit the island on Friday afternoon and Saturday and delayed many attendees’ flights! When the weather cleared, many visited some of the stunning basalt rock formations on the beach, waterfalls, and dormant volcanoes. A relaxing social event marked the final evening of the conference with Korean singers, flautists, and a Japanese rock singer!
2020 Global Symposium and 2019 Meetings
The 2018 meeting will certainly go down as a success and one of the most unique ketogenic diet conferences in recent memory. The 7th Global Symposium will be held October 2020 in Brighton, UK, and will be coordinated by Dr. Helen Cross along with Matthew’s Friends.
Of note, other meetings to be held in 2019 include