PCOS & Dieting

PCOS & Dieting

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Cut back on high-glycemic foods to improve insulin sensitivity.

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Weight gain and problems losing weight often plague women with polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS is an endocrine disorder that occurs when your ovaries produce excess androgens, or male hormones. It occurs in 6 to 10 percent of women of childbearing age, according to Brigham and Women's Hospital. Diet plays a central role in managing symptoms of PCOS, since weight loss improves hormonal imbalance.

Importance of Diet

Up to 80 percent of women with PCOS are obese, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Although the cause of PCOS is unknown, insulin resistance is a prominent feature and appears to play a role, along with other factors such as genetic predisposition. Insulin resistance refers to when your body fails to respond properly to insulin -- a glucose-regulating hormone. This leads to high insulin levels, which may cause an imbalance of other hormones and may increase your appetite, leading to weight gain.

Calorie Restriction

A weight loss of just 5 percent improves insulin resistance and promotes hormonal balance, lowering androgen levels, according to Brigham and Women's Hospital. Calorie-restriction plays a central role in any diet. The goal is to make dietary changes so that you take in fewer calories than your body burns in an effort to facilitate weight loss. You can do this by switching from high-calorie foods to lower calorie options. It's best to work with a registered dietitian or a nutrition counselor to create an individualized meal plan.

Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Glycemic Benefits

Consider following a low-carb or low-glycemic diet since insulin resistance is a common characteristic of PCOS. Controlled-carbohydrate diets help keep glucose stable and improve insulin sensitivity. A low-carb diet limits the total amount of carbs you eat each day, whereas a low-glycemic diet takes into account the glycemic index at each meal. GI is a measurement of how quickly and drastically a carbohydrate rood increases blood glucose. Controlling carbohydrate intake has benefits for women with PCOS, according to a review in the April 2013 edition of the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics." The authors reviewed study results of diets using different dietary compositions for women with PCOS. Controlled-carb diets resulted in greater reductions in insulin resistance, and greater improvements in menstrual regularity and mood, compared to other dietary compositions.

Putting it Together

No matter which diet you choose, weight loss alone improves characteristics of PCOS, according to the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" review. On a low-glycemic diet, you stick to nutritious foods with a GI rating of 55 or below. Obtaining a glycemic index chart helps identify acceptable foods. Examples of low-glycemic foods include apples, pears, quinoa, oatmeal, barley, beans, lentils and brown rice. On a low-carbohydrate diet you aim for healthy carbohydrates such as vegetables, whole grains, fruit, beans and other high fiber foods without worrying about the glycemic index. Overall you'll avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and foods made with white flour.


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