kat note: This article is a bit ‘heavy’ near the top but it has some easy-to-read, practical advice throughout. This is one of several articles I’ve found recently that talk about low calorie diets being beneficial for pcos’ers
Low Calorie Diet & Polycystic Ovaries
In an analysis of 263 women with polycystic ovary syndrome at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London, England(1) , 91 (35%) of whom were obese (body mass index greater than 25 kg/m2), it was found that obese women with PCOS were more likely to be anovulatory and they also had a higher prevalence of hirsutism than the non-obese women. Although serum concentrations of gonadotrophins, androstenedione and total testosterone were similar in obese and non-obese women with PCO, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels were significantly lower, and free testosterone correspondingly higher, in obese women.
Serum concentrations of SHBG were inversely correlated with those of both fasting and glucose-stimulated insulin. A short-term, very-low-calorie diet resulted in a 2-fold increase in SHBG which was mirrored by a fall in serum insulin. Similar biochemical changes were also observed during a long-term calorie-controlled diet (1000 calories a day over 6-7 months) and these changes were associated with an improvement of menstrual function and fertility.
A low calorie diet (ie. 1,000 calories per day) brought about “improvement of menstrual function and fertility” and the report concluded that a calorie controlled diet has an important part to play in the treatment of obese women with PCO.
These findings were supported by an earlier study which reviewed a combination of dietary therapy and acupuncture(2). Eighty patients with the polycystic ovarys syndrome (PCOS) and excessive body weight were investigated. Weight loss was achieved by means of a diet in 60 patients, and acupuncture in 20 patients. This kind of treatment resulted in pregnancy in 27 (33.7%) patients. Therefore therapeutic diet or acupuncture may be recommended as the first stage of treatment for weight reduction in PCOS patients.
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Essential Fatty Acids & Polycystic Ovaries
Research published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology indicated that Essential fatty Acids (EFA) can help hormonal imbalances as well as related symptoms such as acne. In fact, people with hormonal related acne (which includes those women suffering from PCO) have also been shown to have deficiencies of EFAs . It is therefore well worth ensuring that the diet contains plenty of the EFAs in cases of PCOs. Foods rich in EFAs include sunflower, soybean, corn or safflower oils, sunflower seeds and linseeds (otherwise known as flax seeds).
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Vitamin A & Polycystic Ovaries
It is well known that Vitamin A is necessary for the maintenance of healthy skin and hormonal balance. Research has confirmed that people with severe acne typically have low levels of vitamin A in their blood. There are several reports of adolescent women with imbalanced hormonal function and consequent acne who were ‘cured’ of acne within a a few weeks after taking vitamin A supplements. (3) In one case, even the scars left from the acne disappeared. Good natural sources of vitamin A include carrots, green leafy vegetables (eg. broccoli, kale, spinach), yellow/orange fruits (eg. peaches, apricots, mangoes).
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Zinc & Polycystic Ovaries
Zinc is known to help hormonal related acne. Whilst the mechanism by which it works is still not fully understood, a lack of zinc has been shown to increase the production of male hormones. There have been several reports of women who were ‘cured’ of longstanding PCO related acne (one for over 12 years) with a low fat diet coupled with zinc gluconate supplements. Zinc supplementation has been shown to exert a beneficial effect in studies concerning low female fertility (4). Zinc is found naturally in generous amounts in brewers yeast, whole grains, brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds.
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Vitamin B6 & Polycystic Ovaries
Dr B Leonard Snider of Pennsylvania reported that vitamin B6 is particularly helpful in cases of acne accompanying menstruation. In one study he noted reduced symptoms of acne by 50 – 75% in adolescent girls who had menstruation difficulties.(5)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Whilst some of the nutrients listed above are available in supplement form from chemists or health food stores, high levels can be toxic and produce side effects and it is therefore always advisable to consult a qualified health practitioner before taking nutritional supplements.
(1)Franks S; Kiddy DS; Hamilton-Fairley D; Bush A; Sharp PS; Reed MJ The role of nutrition and insulin in the regulation of sex hormone binding globulin. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol Nov 1991, 39 (5B) p835-8
(2) Alieva EA; Fanchenko ND; Pshenichnikova TIa; Parshutin NP; Gasparov AS; Vetr M [The polycystic ovary syndrome and increased body mass] Acta Univ Palacki Olomuc Fac Med 1990, 126 p233-40
(3)The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (Prevention Magazine) Mark Pritkin
(4) The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (Prevention Magazine) Mark Pritkin (p3)