Ketogenic food festival returns to New London this weekend

New London — To prepare for an influx of people who eschew carbohydrates, Carl Franklin labored in the toasty kitchen of RD86 last week, feeding batter for "bZoodles" — eggs, egg whites and the binding agent transglutaminase — into a $6,000 crepe manufacturing machine.

He was preparing lasagna sheets, while other volunteers in the room prepped low-carb pizza crust made from almond flour, mozzarella, cream cheese, garlic salt and xanthan gum. While many claims of "It's just as good as the real thing!" from adherents to various strict diets seem suspect, this truly holds a candle to any carb-heavy crust.

This crust was headed to Daddy Jack's, while Hot Rod Café, Napolitano's, Fat Boy's, The Social, Octane, La Luna, Wings n' Pies, Spills and RD86 will have low-carb options on their menu this weekend, when the city becomes the place to be for those who swear by the ketogenic diet.

Franklin is a Waterford resident who co-hosts the podcast 2 Keto Dudes and founded Ketofest. This is the third year he's brought the food and lifestyle festival — which he is putting on with Richard Morris and Carrie Brown, respectively the former and current co-host of the podcast — to New London.

The popular but controversial ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet similar to the Atkins diet, the main difference being that the Atkins diet doesn't place a cap on protein intake, Franklin said, and there is more research being done on the ketogenic diet.

Without sugars to burn, a body immersed in the diet instead burns fats, a metabolic process known as ketosis. Scientific evidence shows the diet is helpful for both accelerating weight loss and treating people with epilepsy.

"It does take 4-5 weeks to completely adapt, so your body knows what to do with ketones," Franklin said. He discourages people from giving up during the initial phase, when they may experience sluggishness as they're adapting.

In designing Ketofest, Franklin wanted to make it a social event rather than just a conference, and the result is "Social Saturday" and "Science Sunday."

On Saturday, there will be a pig roast with clam chowder and coleslaw, fitness classes, music from Braiden Sunshine, live podcast recordings, walking tours of New London, cheese-making demonstrations at Thames River Greenery, and cooking demos and tastings at RD86.

"At night, we let people loose," Franklin said. He is giving a $10 voucher to each participant that can be used at any of the participating restaurants.

The schedule for Sunday involves "the latest research, science and stories from the thought leaders in the low-carb space" at the Garde Arts Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The speakers include medical doctors, nutrition specialists, cholesterol researchers, carnivore diet advocates and more.

Fox Hill Kitchens, a Vermont company that makes low-carb and gluten-free bread, will be serve burgers at Parade Plaza on Saturday and grilled cheese on Sunday. Franklin said other food for Sunday includes a bacon bar, chicken confit, tomato-basil soup and cauliflower rice.

Franklin expects about 300 attendees, people coming from throughout the United States and beyond.

Tickets are still available at $150 for each day, while medical professionals can go to Sunday's talks for $50.

Adherents sing praises of diet

The journey that Franklin, 52, has taken with the ketogenic diet dates to 2015, when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

He heard about the ketogenic diet from Morris, a friend whose diabetic markers improved and who lost 80 pounds after adapting the dietary regimen. Franklin started the diet and said he also lost 80 pounds and reversed his diabetes.

Karen Jones, a Waterford resident who volunteered with Franklin in the RD86 kitchen last week, has a similar story. She was diagnosed with diabetes but didn't want to go on medication, and she heard about the ketogenic diet from a pharmacist.

Jones went to the first meetup of Franklin's New London County Ketogenic Support Group, and now she's the volunteer coordinator for Ketofest.

"The best thing about keto is you don't have to give up all the things you really like, like the cheese and the bacon," Jones said. She found giving up bread wasn't as hard as expected.

White Plains resident Robin Alves, who was making low-carb pizza dough with Jones and others, said she lost 68 pounds and stopped suffering from chronic migraines after going on the diet.

With type 2 diabetes impacting nearly a quarter of Department of Veterans Affairs patients, the VA in May announced a partnership with Virta Health, a company with a  diabetes treatment plan focused on a low-carb diet and counseling, reported.

Still, without long-term research, many doctors and nutritionists remain concerned about the ketogenic diet, citing concerns over cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease.

Editor's Note: This version corrects a difference between the Atkins and ketogenic diets.

If you go

What: Ketofest 

When: Friday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (free public lectures about intermittent fasting from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., guided walking tour of New London at 3:30 p.m., and VIP party for those with tickets from 6 to 10 p.m.); Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with attendee party at 8 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Friday: lectures at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation, VIP party at Carl Franklin’s house

Saturday: fitness classes, pig roast and live music at Parade Plaza; cheese-making classes and wine and cheese tastings at Thames River Greenery; cooking demonstrations and attendee par-ty at RD86; and live podcast recordings at All Souls

Cost: $150 per day for Saturday and Sunday; $50 for health care professionals on Sunday; $400 for both days, the VIP party and priority access to the cooking demos

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