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Low-Carb Diet Improves Fertility For IVF Patients

Published on May 14, 2013,

Reducing carbohydrates and boosting protein intake can significantly improve a woman’s chance of conception and birth after in vitro fertilization (IVF), according to a new study. This is from Medscape…

Fetus at 18 weeks after fertilization 3D Pregn...

Fetus at 18 weeks after fertilization 3D Pregnancy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The effect is “at the egg level,” said lead investigator Jeffrey Russell, MD, from the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Newark. He presented the findings here at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 61st Annual Clinical Meeting.

Carbohydrate-loaded diets create a hostile oocyte environment even before conception or implantation, he explained.

“Eggs and embryos are not going to do well in a high-glucose environment.” By lowering carbs and increasing protein, “you’re bathing your egg in good, healthy, nutritious supplements,” he said.

Dr. Russell said this study was prompted by the poor quality of embryos he was seeing in young, healthy women who came through his IVF program. “We couldn’t figure out why. They weren’t overweight, they weren’t diabetic,” he said.

The 120 women in the study, who were 36 and 37 years of age, completed a 3-day dietary log. It revealed that for some, their daily diet was 60% to 70% carbohydrates. “They were eating oatmeal for breakfast, a bagel for lunch, pasta for dinner, and no protein,” Dr. Russell explained.

Patients were categorized into 1 of 2 groups: those whose average diet was more than 25% protein (n = 48), and those whose average diet was less than 25% protein (n = 72). There was no difference in average body mass index between the 2 groups (approximately 26 kg/m²).

There were significant differences in IVF response between the 2 groups. Blastocyst development was higher in the high-protein group than in the low-protein group (64% vs 33.8%; < .002), as were clinical pregnancy rates (66.6% vs 31.9%; < .0005) and live birth rates (58.3% vs 11.3%; < .0005).

When protein intake was more than 25% of the diet and carbohydrate intake was less than 40%, the clinical pregnancy rate shot up to 80%, he reported.

Dr. Russell now counsels all IVF patients to cut down on carbohydrate intake and increase protein intake.

“There is no caloric restriction, but they have to get above 25% protein. This is not a weight-loss program, it’s a nutritional program. This is not about losing weight to get pregnant, it’s about eating healthier to get pregnant,” he said.

In a study presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) meeting last year, IVF patients who switched to a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet and then underwent another cycle increased their blastocyst formation rate from 19% to 45% and their clinical pregnancy rate from 17% to 83% (Fertil Steril2012;98[Suppl]:S47).

Even non-IVF patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome have improved pregnancy rates after making this lifestyle change, Dr. Russell noted.

More at:  Low-Carb Diet Improves In Vitro Fertilization

How Much Protein Do I Need on a low carb diet?

Published on August 9, 2012,

Blog Kickin’ Carb Clutter has a fascinating post questioning how much protein people on a low carb diet should be eating and conclude it might not be as much as you think.

The current rage beginning within the low-carb community is blood ketone meters that measure the amount of ketones in your blood, rather than your urine. The sticks are somewhat expensive, but for those who have purchased and used them, they have received a very eye-opening revelation about their low-carb diet plan.

What people are discovering is not new. Both Stargazey and I have been saying this ever since we investigated and tried a no-carb diet several years ago. Stargazey has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and her blog is LowCarb4U if you’re interested. The series starts with a post on protein intake and blood glucose levels and runs for about half a dozen more posts, or so. Make sure you read all of the comments for each post as well.

Today, there are low-carb experts who say the same thing, so low carbers are beginning to sit up and take notice – especially since Ketone Blood Meters are making the problem more real. Regardless of what you want to believe, you most certainly can be eating more protein than your metabolism can handle adequately. According to Dr. Atkins, “A total of 58 percent of dietary protein is converted by the body into sugar.” When you’re young, this doesn’t seem to be as large a problem as it is for those over 50, but that depends on your degree of Insulin Resistance and how many healthy Beta Cells you have.

Is a Low-Carb Diet a High-Protein Diet?

Nutritional ketosis is a new term that describes the situation that occurs when you enter the state of ketosis due to carbohydrate restriction. Dr. Atkins used to call it dietary ketosis. It is defined as a blood ketone level of .5 to 3.0 mg/dl. You may, or may not, have ketones in your urine. Those ketones are irrelevant. What’s important is that your body makes the switch from predominantly burning glucose for fuel to burning fatty acids and ketones.

But…many low-carb dieters have never made the switch.

On a typical, low-calorie diet, protein intake is kept low. That results in as much as 50 percent of your weight loss actually coming from muscle tissue rather than body fat. So eating adequate amounts of protein is essential, but how much is that? Is a low-carb diet supposed to be a high-protein diet?

Protein supplies your body with the amino acids it needs to create hormones and repair or build muscle, organs and other body tissues. To do that, you need to eat about .6 grams of protein for every pound of lean body mass you have. That’s just for repair and basic body functions. It doesn’t take into account any extra for gluconeogenesis or the extra you need if you have an active lifestyle or lift weights.

For those with about 100 pounds of lean body mass, you need a minimum of 60 grams of protein per day. If you have 120 pounds of lean body mass, that comes to 72 grams. If you have a sedentary lifestyle by choice or due to health restrictions, you need a little less.

Either way, that doesn’t make a high-protein diet. That’s quite low when you consider that an ounce of meat or an egg contains about 6 to 7 grams of protein. Lean meats have higher protein counts than fatty meats. Depending on your meat, cheese and egg choices, that comes to about 10 to 12 eggs or ounces of meat and cheese per day. That’s far less than most people realize, especially when you take into account that you can easily consume 12 to 16 ounces in a single steak! And quite a few Atkins followers go out of their way to consume the 4 ounces of cheese they’re allowed per day…

The concluding comments are:

We think we are doing the right thing by turning to meats and other no-carb choices, but maybe we’re hurting ourselves more than we realize. Instead of grabbing those left-over baked chicken legs for a snack because they’re easy and convenient, maybe we should be reaching for the left-over salad instead.

Full article at: How Much Protein Do I Need?

Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work – And Why Low Carb Is Crucial

Published on August 3, 2012,

Returning to the theme of ‘are all calories equal?’, Dietriffic has a well reasoned and researched article that concludes that just counting the calories you eat is not the right approach to weight loss and what you eat – especially restricting carbs – is crucial.

No doubt you’ve heard the expression, “A calorie is a calorie,” meaning the calories we get from carbs, fat and protein are equal in terms of their effect on our weight.

Perhaps you think all that matters is the total number of calories you take in each day, regardless of whether the majority comes from one macronutrient more than the other.

In fact, many people emphasize that weight management is a simple game of math. Maintaining your weight, therefore, is merely about consuming the same number of calories your body burns each day.

But, while this is true in part, research suggests there’s a lot more to it than that.

Calories Are Not All Equal

Firstly, it might help to define the term ‘calorie.’

A calorie is a unit of food energy. Basically, the energy that fuels the body; much like petrol or gas fuels a car. Fat provides 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram.

While it may seem simple to conclude that all you need to do is take in fewer calories than you expend, if you want to lose weight, research suggests the body may processes these macronutrients differently. So, perhaps a calories is not a calorie after all.

This gives us an indication as to why weight loss is not so simple, and suggests why so many struggle with losing weight long-term.

Calorie Counting Has Limited Use

If you are only concerned with counting calories, it won’t tell you much about the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in your diet. Let me give you an example:

A bar of chocolate has roughly 251 calories. 6-8 brazil nuts and 5-6 almonds have around 250 calories.

These two snacks contain similar amounts of calories, but they will certainly not have the same effect on your body. The chocolate bar is pretty much all carbs in the form of refined sugar. But, the nuts contain healthy fats and protein, as well as vitamins and fibre.  It’s obvious which is the better option.

As we shall see, calorie counting alone tells you absolutely nothing about how your body will react to a certain food.

The Research: Protein vs Carbs vs Fats

Research indicates the calories from proteins, carbohydrates and fats may not be treated the same by the body, therefore challenging the idea that a calorie is a calorie.

1. Dietary Effect On Muscle Mass

A recent 2012 study, found that when you overeat on a low protein (higher carb) diet, you store fat around your organs (e.g. liver, kidneys and pancreas). However, when a high protein diet is eaten, it adds muscle and increases resting metabolism.

The researchers concluded:

Among persons living in a controlled setting, calories alone account for the increase in fat; protein affected energy expenditure and storage of lean body mass, but not body fat storage.

Interestingly, the low protein group (5% protein) lost 1.5 pounds of muscle, and gained 7.5 pounds of fat. The high protein group (25% protein) gained 6.3 pounds of muscle mass.

This study suggests that some calories may make you store fat, while others help you build muscle.

Avoid ‘Free’ Fructose

Calories from drinks appear to be particularly problematic.

One study specifically singled out fructose, concluding that in overweight and obese adults, it increases intra-abdominal fat, promotes abnormal lipids, decreases insulin sensitivity, and increases DNL (de novo lipogenesis).

Another 2012 study in young people, found that the ‘free’ fructose in high fructose corn syrup, led to increased belly fat, inflammation, blood pressure, blood sugar and pre-diabetes.

2. Dietary Effect On Satiety

We know that protein foods make us feel more satisfied. The result of this is a reduced appetite, which has the potential to make us eat less, if we listen to our body’s hunger signals.

One study found that when subjects increased their protein intake to 30 percent, they ate 441 calories less each day, and experienced greater feelings of satiety.

In fact, they lost almost 11 pounds on average, including more than 8 pounds of body fat.

3. Dietary Effect On Wellness

A very good comparison of the different effects certain diets have on the body, is Ancel Keys’ semi-starvation experiment versus John Yudkin’s low carb study.

The big difference between these two studies was the carbohydrate and fatintake; they were basically the reverse of each another. Yet, as Dr Eades puts it in his article on Tim Ferriss’ blog:

Both studies provided between 1500 and 1600 kcal per day, but with huge differences in outcome.

In the Key’s semi-starvation study (high-carb, low-fat) the subjects starved and obsessed on food constantly. In the Yudkin study (low-carb, high-fat), the subjects, who had no restriction on the amount of food they ate, volitionally consumed the same number of calories that the semi-starvation group did, yet reported that they had “an increases feeling of well-being.”

Instead of lethargy and depression reported by the Keys subjects on their low-fat, high-carb 1570 calories, those on the same number of low-carb, high-fat calories experienced “decreased lassitude.*”

* state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy.

So, despite that fact that the diets were almost identical in calorie intake, the results were vastly different, with the higher fat, lower carb diet showing a much more favorable outcome on overall wellness.

More at: Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work

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