TLDR: Science 11/10, hangover -5/10.
If you are into science, critically evaluating nutrition research and looking beyond influencer discount codes for your health information, look no further than Sigma Nutrition. Last week, Sigma Nutrition held their spring conference, and who am I to turn down an opportunity to nerd out in a socially acceptable setting.
The conference took place in Trinity College Dublin *cries in UCD*, and after getting lost approximately 15 times, I managed to find my way over to the lecture hall. The day ran from 10:00-17:30, and took place in the form of four separate talks from various educators. The sessions were as follows:
#1: Dr. Deirdre Tobias: Chaos or Consensus? What do we know about diet and health?
#2: Dr. Niamh Aspell: Food Policy Reform: Learnings from a Pandemic
#3: Alan Flanagan: How to Confidently Interpret Nutrition Studies
#4: Danny Lennon: Is Targeting Weight Loss a Lost Cause?
Each session was roughly an hour or so, and we all received a copy of the lecture slides after. Ideal really, as I needed to ice my hand from furiously scrawling all day. At the end of each talk, we all had the opportunity to ask questions.
Look, I love science and learning about things I actually find engaging, so I’m going to declare my bias from the outset. I was always going to enjoy this. However, whilst I did expect to learn and nod along a bit, I wasn’t expecting to have my mind blown in the way it was. I’ve sat through enough lectures clock watching and daydreaming about how I am going to become a trophy wife *cries in UCD again*.
Well, I can kiss my trophy wife plan goodbye because it didn’t get a look in. From start to finish I listened with rapt attention, probably terrified a few of the speakers because I was writing so furtively and came away with a few more questions than answers about my own research and perspective on nutrition. Love that for me.
The key note speaker came in the form of Dr. Deirdre Tobias, nutritional epidemiology researcher at Harvard. Now, I was low-key expecting this to be super boring. Dr. Tobias was nothing short of iconic, delivering a fascinating lecture that had everything from trans fat, spina bifida and a brief shoutout to the Jameson distillery. Not only was it interesting, she was also hilarious. It was a privilege to listen to her lecture and was the standout session of the day for me.
The rest of the sessions were led by the Sigma Nutrition crew – with lectures from Danny, Alan and Niamh. Niamh gave an extremely interesting lecture on food policy reform and how it has been altered by the pandemic, Alan basically wrote my discussion chapter of my thesis for me with his artful breakdown of how to interpret research and Danny wrapped the whole day up by raising the contentious issue of targeted weight loss. Now, this talk raised several points for me, but until I have time to sit down and read up more about it, all I can say is it was a really interesting discussion.
Overall, this was a perfect day for nutrition nerds everywhere, and a great opportunity to see fellow nerds in the wild. Chef’s kiss.
Cost/What Do You Get?
This course cost €150, but they also had a student rate of €115, which darling old me availed of. Clinging onto that student title for as long as possible.
This included lunch, tea/coffee and access to all the learning materials after.
Is It For Me?
If you are in any way interested in nutrition or health research, I think this was an invaluable experience. I think it would be hugely beneficial for nutrition/health science undergraduates to attend, and I am only sorry it wasn’t on during the first year of my MSc.
For the layperson with a general interest in nutrition, I would suggest giving the podcast a listen first, to make sure it’s for you. I’m not sure it would be suitable for those without a bit of a background in nutrition, but who knows. You could definitely pick up things a lot quicker than me.
Overall, I would highly recommend attending, and am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to attend.
Further links to upcoming Sigma events can be found here: https://sigmanutrition.com/.
Sigma Nutrition’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sigmanutrition/
Danny’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dannylennon_sigma/
Alan’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thenutritional_advocate/
Deirdre’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/deirdre_tobias