Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (or PCOS for short) is a condition that affects millions of women in the UK. The cause of this syndrome is unknown. The condition is associated with abnormal hormone levels, especially insulin. In this blog we discuss why following a low carbohydrate lifestyle helps manage the condition and why.
High levels of insulin are usually associated with a variety of chronic and inflammatory conditions especially in individuals who are either diagnosed as pre-diabetic or insulin resistant. Insulin is an important hormone as it is responsible for overseeing a variety of mechanisms within the body. With about 60% of individuals affected by PCOS being obese through increased abdominal weight and 50% of these individuals suffering from insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia, it is ever more important to ensure that your dietary habits are not making a negative impact on your condition.
High Insulin Levels
Insulin is the hormone responsible for maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Chronic high levels of insulin will result in a person’s blood sugars being low most of the time (insulin directs cells to remove the sugar in the blood and to use it for energy). The result of low blood sugar levels will in turn result in feelings of tiredness and overall low energy levels. It also leads to sugar cravings as the body will itself try to rectify these low blood sugar levels which in turn will lead you to possibly overeat on carbohydrates.
Minimising Sugars and Starches in the diet
By changing your dietary habits and choosing to eat items that are lower in sugars and starches will help to minimise the constant blood sugar spikes which will in turn lead to a stable levels of insulin.
Once insulin levels are stabilised, the body will start to look at using other sources to fuel itself, mainly fat and protein. By following a dietary lifestyle that is low in carbohydrates will allow the body to naturally start burning unwanted body fat for energy. This will result not only in weight loss but will also impact on overall energy levels.
Studies have shown that individuals suffering from PCOS benefit from following a low carbohydrate diet. The reduction of carbohydrate in the diet helps to better manage insulin and this immediately improves any insulin resistance symptoms and helps with weight loss.
Why Natural Ketosis?
The Natural Ketosis way of doing things is quite simple. We promote a low-carb, high-protein, moderate-fat diet. Although we are in the same school of thought as Atkins, our approach to dieting and lifestyle is different.
On our program we embrace those carbohydrates that are based on dietary fibre rather than simple and/or complex carbohydrates. The difference between these carbohydrates is the way they are digested within the body. By choosing these vegetables and fruits, the essential micronutrient requirements are met whilst ensuring no blood sugar spikes in the progress.
Therefore the Natural Ketosis way is not only about being healthy and making the right choices, but it is also about being slimmer forever.
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Kasim-Karakas, S., Almario, R. and Cunningham, W. (2009). Effects of protein versus simple sugar intake on weight loss in polycystic ovary syndrome (according to the National Institutes of Health criteria). Fertility and sterility, 92(1), pp.262--270.
Mavropoulos, J., Yancy, W., Hepburn, J. and Westman, E. (2005). The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot study. Nutr Metab (Lond), 2, p.35.
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The amount of animal protein we should eat seems to be constantly under scrutiny. One day it’s a report stating that animal protein is bad for health, whilst the next day it’s the reverse advise - eat animal protein as a recent study has been shown it helps prevent chronic diseases X, Y and Z. Behind the catchy headlines however, what does the science actually say about the role of animal protein in our diet and health?
One home truth that you should certainly take from this piece is that the quality of the protein in your diet has a big impact on your health. By this we mean the less processed animal protein is, such as hot dogs and other fast food meat products, the better. Unprocessed protein is better as it is more wholesome and because it contains less inflammatory ingredients (eg: vegetable oils).
Quality protein has a very central role in a variety of body functions and health. Studies keep showing that if there is one thing that rises above the cacophony of health stories is that protein is essential for weight loss and maintenance, plays a role in immune functions as well as signalling the brain when we are full.
What is Protein?
From a nutritional point of view, protein is very important. It is one of the main macronutrients and one which requires daily consumption as the body is unable to store protein. In other words, eating a lot of protein one day and barely nothing the next is not the ideal way to go. Protein is an important nutritional component as it provides the building blocks that are responsible not only for building muscle, but also for maintaining it.
In nature there are around 100 amino acids available, however the human body only requires 20. These can be classified as essential and nonessential amino acids. The latter, our body is able to create them via certain metabolism pathways, however we require a daily stream of 10 amino acids through our diet as the body is unable to produce these from scratch.
Protein and Weight Loss
Current UK guidelines advise that adult males consume 55g per day of protein whereas adult women consume 45g per day. These amounts are based on only one aspect of protein - nitrogen balance. Nitrogen is an important molecule that is required for optimal health, so this amount is based on the key requirement of this molecule to ensure that we don’t wither away. However this approach to protein is unfortunately ignoring the other important roles that protein performs in our body.
Consumption of dietary protein interacts with hormones such as leptin, which signals the brain triggering a feeling of fullness. So, eating protein helps you stay fuller for longer. A diet high in carbohydrates has the opposite effect on the brain as it triggers a ‘liking’ mechanism that operates the same brain mechanism as opioid substances. So basing all your meals around carbohydrates is not the best idea when trying to lose and maintain a steady weight.
When losing weight, it is still important to make sure that your are still getting an adequate amount of dietary protein. Not consuming enough protein can lead to loss of muscle. In fact, a new study communicated in May at the European Congress on Obesity found that severe calorie restriction led to a higher loss of muscle when compared to other participants who ate twice as much. Loss of muscle will register a greater difference on the scale, as muscle weighs more than fat, than if only stored fat was lost. Loss of body fat however registers greater differences in body shape and definition.
It is important to maintain muscle mass in your body, as this will ensure that your metabolic rate remains high. Having a healthy metabolic rate will help you achieve optimal weight loss and will help you keep the weight off. Apart from helping us feel full, dietary protein consumption also helps to burn energy faster as its digestion is intricately linked to our metabolism.
Protein and Health
Protein is made up of various amino acids, most notably branched amino acids such as Leucine. A steady stream of leucine helps to boost our metabolism thus resulting in weight loss but also other health benefits such as stabilising blood sugar metabolism and cholesterol levels ensuring high HDL (good cholesterol) vs LDL (bad cholesterol) ratios.
The highest sources of leucine are foods containing animal protein and dairy options. Avoiding red meat and dairy options can make it a bit more difficult to ensure a steady stream of leucine.
A meal containing high amounts of good quality protein, especially leucine, is needed not only for weight loss but also to ensure optimum health. This is why here at Natural Ketosis we only use the highest quality animal protein in our meals as this ensures not only a wholesome nutritious meal, but also ensuring that weight loss is achieved.
Atherton, P. and Smith, K. (2012). Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. The Journal of physiology, 590(5), pp.1049--1057.
Batterham, M., Cavanagh, R., Jenkins, A., Tapsell, L., Plasqui, G. and Clifton, P. (2008). High-protein meals may benefit fat oxidation and energy expenditure in individuals with higher body fat. Nutrition \& Dietetics, 65(4), pp.246--252.
Calder, P. (2006). Branched-chain amino acids and immunity. The Journal of nutrition, 136(1), pp.288--293.
Egan, B. and Zierath, J. (2013). Exercise metabolism and the molecular regulation of skeletal muscle adaptation. Cell metabolism, 17(2), pp.162--184.
Hall, K. (2008). What is the required energy deficit per unit weight loss?. International Journal of Obesity, 32(3), pp.573--576.
Halton, T. and Hu, F. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), pp.373--385.
Karagounis, L. (2008). Effects of Nutrients and Exercise on the Molecular Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Degradation in Healthy Humans.
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Leidy, H., Carnell, N., Mattes, R. and Campbell, W. (2007). Higher protein intake preserves lean mass and satiety with weight loss in pre-obese and obese women. Obesity, 15(2), pp.421--429.
McIver, C., Wycherley, T., Clifton, P. and others, (2012). MTOR signaling and ubiquitin-proteosome gene expression in the preservation of fat free mass following high protein, calorie restricted weight loss.Nutrition \& metabolism, 9(1), p.83.
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Weigle, D., Breen, P., Matthys, C., Callahan, H., Meeuws, K., Burden, V. and Purnell, J. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(1), pp.41--48.
Over the weekend, an interesting article featured in the Daily Mail investigating what ingredients went into “sugar-free” food items. Much to the surprise of the author, some recipes called for a whopping 550g of honey!
What are Hidden Sugars?
Hidden sugars are ingredients that have been added to a pre-prepared product to add flavour and texture it. Whilst we are familiar with white granulated sugar as being sugar, we are still unfamiliar with the other names that sugar presents itself in our food.
Here is a list of names that sugar presents itself as in pre-prepared food:
With the industry having a vested interest in providing great tasting products without using traditional sugar, there has been a surge of other sweeteners on the market. One that is termed to be safe for diabetics is Stevia. However, whilst stevia is indeed extracted from a South American plant and it is indeed sweeter than granulated white sugar , the commercial forms available will not help minimise blood sugar spikes.
A quick search of stevia-based sweeteners available at various supermarkets, the total carbohydrate content, per 100g of product, is always in excess of 90g. In all these cases, stevia accounted for around 2% of the total product. The rest is made up of Dextrose (modified corn starch) or Maltodextrin (modified rice starch), items which DO have an impact on blood sugar levels: Dextrose has a GI (low glycaemic index score) of 100 whilst Maltodextrin has a GI of 105!
So whilst stevia itself may offer a good sugar-alternative, the commercial form it is found in is certainly not good for maintaining stable blood sugars.
Ok, but what about honey, agave syrup and coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar, agave syrup and honey are sometimes seen as ‘healthy’ alternatives to granulated white sugar as they come from natural sources and due to this contain nutrients beneficial to health. Whilst honey and coconut sugar do contain traces of antioxidants, B vitamins, etc, these account for only 5% of total content. The other 95% is made up of a variety of carbohydrates, the main one being fructose. Honey contains 76.4g of total carbohydrates per 100g.
Hence the idea of substituting granulated sugar for honey, may not be the healthiest thing that you can do as in actual fact you have not removed any sugar from your diet.
Fructose may well be low GI, but it suppresses the body’s ability to produce insulin and leptin – hormones required for controlling appetite, essentially the chemicals your body produces to tell you that you’re full. Fructose intake has been shown to contribute to insulin resistance , weight gain  and hypertension [4, 5] .
Sugar-Free Yet Still Sweet
Polyols are becoming a popular ingredient in foods labelled as ‘sugar-free’. Polyols are a group of low digestible carbohydrates. They are easily recognisable in ingredients list due to the suffix ‘-ol’ eg: lactitol, mannitol, etc, the only exception to this rule is the polyol isomalt. With regards to polyol digestion, humans to do not contain the enzymes necessary to break these down and so are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Due to this, they do not cause a rise in blood sugars and a subsequent insulin response. Hence, on the surface, polyols appear to be low carb friendly.
Published research into the health benefits and effects of polyols are in favour of substituting them for added sugars as they cause less dental caries and are seen as a good method to help tackle the obesity and diabetes epidemic .
However, having said this, research has shown that consuming more than 10g of polyols a day can have a laxative effect as well as aggravate irritable bowel syndrome symptoms .
Oligofructose - a better option all round
Oligofructose (also known as Fructooligosaccharide [FOS]) is a naturally occurring alternative sweetener. A growing body of evidence continues to show the importance of a healthy gut environment is not only helpful for bowel health but also to enable full absorption of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, through our gut . Studies into the health benefits of oligofructose show that it stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the human gut and hence termed as prebiotics .
The use of oligofructose as a natural sweetener offers satisfaction to one’s sweet tooth whilst also avoiding blood sugar spikes and unwanted laxative side effects. It is for this reason that here at Natural Ketosis we use only oligofructose in our food, thereby ensuring that the quality of our food is second to none.
1. Goyal, S., Samsher, and Goyal, R. (2010). Stevia ( Stevia rebaudiana ) a bio-sweetener: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr, [online] 61(1), pp.1-10. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/09637480903193049 [Accessed 9 Jun. 2014].
2. Basciano, H., Federico, L. and Adeli, K. (2005). Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia.Nutrition \& metabolism, 2(1), p.5.
3. Johnson, R., Nakagawa, T., Sanchez-Lozada, L., Shafiu, M., Sundaram, S., Le, M., Ishimoto, T., Sautin, Y. and Lanaspa, M. (2013). Sugar, Uric Acid, and the Etiology of Diabetes and Obesity. Diabetes, 62(10), pp.3307--3315.
4. Johnson, R., Segal, M., Sautin, Y., Nakagawa, T., Feig, D., Kang, D., Gersch, M., Benner, S. and S\'anchez-Lozada, L. (2007). Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 86(4), pp.899--906.
5. Stanhope, K., Schwarz, J. and Havel, P. (2013). Adverse metabolic effects of dietary fructose: results from the recent epidemiological, clinical, and mechanistic studies. Current opinion in lipidology, 24(3), pp.198--206.
6. Geoffrey Livesey (2003). Health potential of polyols as sugar replacers, with emphasis on low glycaemic properties. Nutrition Research Reviews, 16, pp 163-191
7. de Roest, R. H., Dobbs, B. R., Chapman, B. A., Batman, B., O'Brien, L. A., Leeper, J. A., Hebblethwaite, C. R. and Gearry, R. B. (2013), The low FODMAP diet improves gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective study. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 67: 895–903
8. Legette, L. L., Lee, W., Martin, B. R., Story, J. A., Campbell, J. K. and Weaver, C. M. (2012), Prebiotics Enhance Magnesium Absorption and Inulin-based Fibers Exert Chronic Effects on Calcium Utilization in a Postmenopausal Rodent Model. Journal of Food Science, 77: 88–94.
9. Niness K.R. (1999), Inulin and Oligofrucotse: What are They? The Journal of Nutrition, 129:7 1402S-1406S
Whilst a rigorous face cream regimen and facials as well as other body treatments will certainly help alleviate the effect of time on our skin, what you eat can have a deep impact on how youthful your skin looks. The effect of sugars on the aging skin sometimes goes unnoticed, especially when it is drowned out by a multitude of products all promising younger more glowing skin.
Research aimed at understanding how our diet affects not only our insides but also our exterior appearance can sometimes go unnoticed. The relationship between diet and our skin has been researched since the 1940s, however it is only with recent advances in research methods are we are finally understanding the intimate link between our skin and the food we eat.
Collagen is the main structural protein in human skin. Collagen proteins link to one another forming fibers which are responsible for the skin’s elasticity. However, during the normal aging process these collagen fibers are unable to continuously repair themselves thus resulting in the skin losing its elasticity and giving rise to the appearance of wrinkles.
The effect that sugar has on the skin is that it binds to the collagen fibers and inhibits their ability to repair themselves thereby speeding up a naturally occurring process.
This process is known as glycation and it happens when either carbohydrates in the form of glucose and fructose bond to the collagen fibers [1,2, 3].
Glycated collagen naturally occurs at a rate of 3.7% yearly , however this figure can vary depending on one’s diet. The science shows that this rate can significantly be improved if one limits not only their sugar and starch intake but also the amount of junk food consumed as the majority of these have been prepared by methods that contribute to pre-formed glycated proteins .
In addition to the effect that glycated proteins (sugar bound to proteins) have on the skin, these can also have an impact on the human gut where they interfere with the normal gut microbes . Studies have found that glycated food lowers the level of “good” bacteria which in turn disrupts the body’s ability to efficiently absorb nutrients. Research is also showing that glycated proteins may be involved in atherosclerotic heart disease .
Reducing simple and complex carbohydrates from your diet will undoubtedly not only have a positive impact on your overall health but also ensure that you have healthy and younger looking skin. Yet another reason to follow to a low carbohydrate lifestyle.
1. URBACH, E. (1945). CARBOHYDRATE METABOLISM AND THE SKIN. Arch Dermatol, [online] 52(5), p.301. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archderm.1945.01510290006001 [Accessed 4 Jun. 2014].
2. Corstjens, H., Dicanio, D., Muizzuddin, N., Neven, A., Sparacio, R., Declercq, L. and Maes, D. (2008). Glycation associated skin autofluorescence and skin elasticity are related to chronological age and body mass index of healthy subjects. Experimental gerontology, 43(7), pp.663--667.
3. Danby, F. (2010). Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clinics in dermatology, 28(4), pp.409--411.
4. Berge, U., Behrens, J. and Rattan, S. (2007). Sugar-Induced Premature Aging and Altered Differentiation in Human Epidermal Keratinocytes. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1100(1), pp.524--529.
5. Tuohy, K., Hinton, D., Davies, S., Crabbe, M., Gibson, G. and Ames, J. (2006). Metabolism of Maillard reaction products by the human gut microbiota--implications for health. Molecular nutrition \& food research, 50(9), pp.847--857.
6. Mills, D., Tuohy, K., Booth, J., Buck, M., Crabbe, M., Gibson, G. and Ames, J. (2008). Dietary glycated protein modulates the colonic microbiota towards a more detrimental composition in ulcerative colitis patients and non-ulcerative colitis subjects. Journal of applied microbiology, 105(3), pp.706--714.
7. Mulder, D., Van Haelst, P., Graaff, R., Gans, R., Zijlstra, F. and Smit, A. (2009). Skin autofluorescence is elevated in acute myocardial infarction and is associated with the one-year incidence of major adverse cardiac events. Netherlands Heart Journal, 17(4), pp.162--168.
Welcome to The Natural Ketosis Company’s blog. We are fed up with the abundance of weight loss myths and miracle solutions that constantly appear in the press. Therefore, we have decided to expose the ridiculous claims that are prevalent in the diet industry and, hopefully in a humorous way, give you our honest opinion about them. We love to hear your opinions so please do not be afraid to comment!