What is PCOS?
We all are probably familiar with the more documented clinical uses for Keto, epilepsy, diabetes, weight loss, and maybe even neurodegenerative disorders and certain types of cancer. The reason why the Ketogenic Diet tends to lend a helping hand to so many different conditions is for several reasons. On Keto we transition to using a different set of fuel sources, fat and ketones. When this switch happens, we tend to see improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels. While this can not only be neural protective, it can also help reduce inflammation and inflammation is one thing that most chronic conditions have in common. One medical condition that may be added to this list is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) (1).
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a condition that affects up to 10% of all-American women. Excess production androgens (male sex hormones) and the presence of acne, menses, ovarian cyst and increased infertility are common characteristics of PCOS. One of the biggest problems with PCOS is that 50% of women go undiagnosed!
Interestingly, over half of the women who are diagnosed with PCOS are overweight or obese. Women with PCOS are also more likely to have high LDL levels (Bad Cholesterol) and low HDL levels (Good Cholesterol). Therefore, in addition to the primary side effects from PCOS those who are also overweight are at a greater risk for metabolic disorders including coronary heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
What Causes PCOS?
While the exact cause of PCOS is not known, one of the leading theory’s is that its development is associated with the excessive release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and insulin resistance. The chronic elevation of insulin may interrupt normal cell signaling pathways and result in increased androgen production (2).
How is PCOS Treated?
Researchers are still looking for the optimal treatment to combat PCOS, however the current treatment recommends a “multi-factorial” approach centered around diet and lifestyle modifications as well as pharmaceuticals and in some cases surgery. Most PCOS patients are insulin resistant and inflamed so strategies should aim to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
Can Keto Help?
Back to what we talked about at the beginning, Keto can help with so many different conditions due to its ability to target insulin resistance and inflammation. Since PCOS is characterized by elevated insulin levels, impaired metabolism, obesity, insulin resistance, and hormonal imbalances, it makes sense that a Ketogenic Diet may be able to offer some therapeutic potential.
There is actually a small bit of research looking at Keto for PCOS! Check out this research review I wrote!
As always, we need a lot more research before we can definitively say what the best approach to treating PCOS is but with some of the early studies and anecdotal stories giving these kinds of results, I think it would be difficult to not consider Keto a top option!
1.) Gasior, M., Rogawski, M. A., & Hartman, A. L. (2006). Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the Ketogenic Diet. Behavioural pharmacology, 17(5-6), 431.
2.) Liepa, G. U., Sengupta, A., & Karsies, D. (2008). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Other Androgen Excess–Related Conditions: Can Changes in Dietary Intake Make a Difference?. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 23(1), 63-71.
3.) Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J. S., & Grimaldi, K. A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European journal of clinical nutrition, 67(8), 789.