The tables set with foil pans piled high with bacon were the first indication that the gathering at the Geekdom Event Center wasn’t the typical health seminar. The topic was the ketogenic diet, which emphasizes high-fat and low-carbohydrate eating as a way to fend off Type 2 diabetes and maintain healthy blood-sugar levels.

The day before, Geekdom co-founder Graham Weston had invited Geekdom members, free of  charge, to complete a blood test to measure their average blood-sugar levels (HbA1c) over three months, fasting glucose, and fasting insulin. Of those tested, 5% were determined to be diabetic based on their results while 34% were prediabetic.

On Thursday, Weston brought two proponents of the ketogenic diet, Carl Franklin and Richard Morris, to tell Geekdom members about the diet’s benefits. Franklin and Morris host a ketogenic lifestyle podcast under the name 2 Keto Dudes.

“We want people to focus on their blood sugar numbers and nothing else, not even the scale,” Franklin said. “We have taken their blood sugar, we are going to tell them how to eat on the diet, and then we are going to come back in three months time to see how they’ve done.”

Weston said that what drew him to bring Franklin and Morris to speak to the community is because in addition to their podcasts, both are also software developers, and Geekdom members could relate to the dudes’ lifestyles.

Weston, the downtown developer who also co-founded Rackspace and chairs the 80|20 Foundation, has been following the ketogenic diet and is a believer. In an email Tuesday to the Geekdom community, Weston urged its members to take a more active approach to their health.

Geekdom members will be invited to participate in follow-up blood tests in three months to determine whether anyone who went on the diet saw improvement in their blood sugar levels.

“Three months isn’t very much time for it to get way better, but many people [who eat a ketogenic diet] do find that their diabetes measures get better relatively quickly,” said Weston.

The ketogenic diet stresses high fat intake, moderate amounts of protein, and few carbohydrates. It was initially developed to help reduce seizures for people diagnosed with epilepsy, especially children.

For Weston, there wasn’t a medical scare that pushed him toward a ketogenic diet. Instead, it was his own research that convinced him of the diet’s health benefits.

Rackspace's former CEO and Chairman Graham Weston speaks to an audience at the 2017 Alliance of Texas Angel Networks Summit at the Hotel Emma.
Rackspace and Geekdom founder Graham Weston. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“All of modern science is on the side of [the ketogenic diet],” Weston said.

Weston’s intention is to bring more modern science about health to the public so that they are able to make informed decisions regarding their diet and health.

Franklin and Morris were both diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and claim to have experienced improved health where “all biomarkers of disease are good” since eating a ketogenic diet. But they aren’t thin.

Franklin told the Rivard Report that the mission of their podcast is to inform people about the benefits of a diet – one they consider a way of life – they say isn’t supported by the medical community despite evidence indicating it can be helpful.

“It’s the only way that we know – that anyone knows – to reduce type 2 diabetes and blood sugar down to normal levels without medication,” Franklin said. “I was diagnosed with diabetes, and after six months [on this diet] I didn’t have it anymore.”

Franklin and Morris also gave their presentation at Rackspace, where workers also took blood tests. Chief Technology Officer John Engates said that he and his wife have benefited dramatically from the diet.

“The diet is not dangerous – it’s not an extreme fad diet. It’s real food – that’s what’s revolutionary about it,” Engates said. “Eating meats, vegetables, and natural things – that isn’t really a fad diet, but it feels like one now because we are so used to eating [processed foods].”

Krista Neugebauer, a lead dietician with JTA Wellness, a nutrition consulting firm promoting healthy living through nutrition and fitness, told the Rivard Report that if a client came into her office wanting to try the ketogenic diet she would be open to it, but she wouldn’t recommend it long-term.

“A high fat-content diet may cause heart complications for a person with a history of heart issues,” Neugebauer said. “The diet doesn’t say to focus on healthy fats – the main focus is high fat. I’m not anti-butter, but I wouldn’t think we all need to eat sticks of butter every day, which I understand is a dramatic comparison.”

Neugebauer acknowledged that the ketogenic diet isn’t a fad diet.

“It has a place in our society for certain individuals, just like going gluten-free is important for those who are gluten sensitive,” she said.

Neugebauer explained that it does make sense that people with type 2 diabetes would experience lower blood sugar and a reduction in symptoms by following a ketogenic diet.

“If they have high blood sugar and went on a ketogenic diet that is low carb, their blood sugars are going to look beautiful because they aren’t consuming foods that elevate blood sugar,” Neugebauer said. “If they were coming to me I would say, ‘Okay, we have your blood sugar down, now let’s reintroduce carbs in a safe way so that we don’t have elevated sugars again.’”

Del Penano, an employee at Jungle Disk and member at Geekdom, chose to have a blood test taken because he had been hearing about the ketogenic diet and wanted to learn more information.

“I’m always concerned about my health. At the end of the day we all need to be more concerned about what we are putting in our bodies,” Penano said. “It’s easier said than done because we live in a fast-food world.”

Working downtown, it’s easy for Penano to step outside of his office and walk up the street to grab a quick bite to eat, although the closest options aren’t always the healthiest ones. Penano told the Rivard Report that he brings his lunch to work about 20% of the time.

“I am really appreciative of Graham for his concern for not only himself and his friends, but it shows that he really cares about the people he works with, too” Penano said.

Franklin and Morris pointed out that the Geekdom vending machines are filled with sugary and high-carbohydrate foods. They also pointed out that the soda machines are free, yet members are charged for water.

Weston told the Rivard Report that he will be looking into introducing healthier snack options to help cultivate a healthier community.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.