Diet Strategies for People with PCOS

Diet Strategies for People with PCOS

Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds from whole grains, vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil can help reduce inflammation.Anastasia Timonina / iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder that affects women of childbearing age. It is a frequent cause of female infertility and also carries significant health risks for women beyond their childbearing years.

There is no single diet, per se, to manage PCOS. However, changes in diet and lifestyle are considered first-line treatments. Making such adjustments can help reduce PCOS symptoms, reduce associated health risks, and improve reproductive outcomes.

About PCOS

Many factors, including genetics, are thought to be possible causes of PCOS. As such, PCOS symptoms can vary between women.

The characteristics of PCOS are the infrequent or absent menstrual periods or ovulation (when an egg is not released from the ovary during the menstrual cycle).

The same goes for the overproduction of androgens, the hormones that control the development of masculine traits. This hormonal imbalance leads to hirsutism (excessive hair growth on the face or body), acne and thinning hair on the scalp.

It is estimated that at least half of women with PCOS are obese. Many also suffer from insulin resistance, a condition in which the body’s cells do not respond well to insulin to remove sugar from the bloodstream.

Women with PCOS are at increased risk of infertility, pregnancy complications, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and endometrial cancer.

Weight management key

Weight loss is the most effective strategy for managing PCOS in women who are overweight or obese. Studies show that losing 5 to 10 percent of weight can improve insulin resistance, ovulation, and pregnancy rates.

To achieve weight loss, the International Evidence-Based Guidelines for the Management of PCOS, released in 2018, recommend consuming 500 to 750 fewer calories per day, depending on your personal daily calorie needs and physical activity.

There is no consensus on the optimal diet for managing PCOS. Research indicates that a number of dietary approaches are beneficial.

Diet Strategies for PCOS

A 2021 review of 20 randomized controlled trials found that low-carb, low-glycemic-index diets, in addition to the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet, improved fertility and reduced androgen levels in women with PCOS.

When the researchers looked at each diet separately, the low-carb diets (about 40 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates) were better at improving ovulation, improving the rate of conception, and reducing the risk of miscarriage.

A randomized controlled trial published earlier this year found that a low-carb Mediterranean diet is an effective PCOS treatment for women who are overweight.

The 12-week study compared two calorie-restricted diets and found that a Mediterranean diet containing 20 percent of carbohydrate calories was better than a low-fat diet for weight loss, reducing body fat, lowering blood triglycerides and improving blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance. Both regimens were effective in restoring the menstrual cycle.

Researchers attribute the advantages of the Mediterranean/low-carb diet to its high fiber content. The fiber in whole grains leads to a lower and slower rise in blood glucose.

Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and extra virgin olive oil can help reduce inflammation associated with PCOS.

Some research has found that a low-glycemic diet helps reduce androgen levels, improve ovulation and reduce insulin resistance. Foods with a low glycemic index, such as fiber-rich whole grains, are digested slower and help control insulin levels.

Examples of low-glycemic foods include grainy bread with seeds, steel cut and rolled oats, 100 percent bran cereal, brown rice, wild rice, sweet potatoes, pasta, apples, citrus fruits, berries, pears, beans, lentils, and nuts Milk, milk and soy milk.

Do supplements help?

The best-studied supplement for PCOS is inositol, a natural compound found in grains, meat, citrus fruits, beans, and lentils. As a dietary supplement, it is available as myoinositol or d-chiro-inositol.

Inositol supplementation has been shown to improve glucose control, lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides and increase the rate of ovulation in some women with PCOS.

Inositol, which is generally well tolerated, is given in doses of one to four grams daily, often with folic acid. Consult your healthcare provider to determine if inositol is right for you.

Physical activity is important

Women with PCOS are encouraged to engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity (eg, brisk walking at 4 mph) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity exercise (eg, jogging, spinning). and hiking).

Resistance training is recommended two (non-consecutive) days per week.

Regular exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity, body composition, and mood.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private dietitian, is Medcan’s director of food and nutrition. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed


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