PCOS sufferers have wrong diet focus

butter on a knife

New research has found women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are on the wrong diet track, days the Dietitians Association of Australia.

The study, recently published in the Dietitians Association of Australia’s journal Nutrition & Dietetics, found some women with PCOS are skimping on carbohydrates and overeating fat to manage their condition.

Researchers Dr Kathryn Hart and Dr Yvonne Jeanes compared the diets of 38 women with PCOS and 30 control women and found that while overall energy (or kilojoule) intake was similar in both groups, women with PCOS were getting more of their daily kilojoules from saturated fat (around 150kJ more) and less from carbohydrates (around 450kJ less), compared to women without PCOS.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson Margaret Hays says in food terms, this means women with PCOS are eating the equivalent of a teaspoon more butter a day, and missing out on a thick slice of grainy bread or a large apple.  

“To improve fertility and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, these women need to be choosing good-quality carbohydrates, with a low glycaemic index, and limiting saturated fat,” says Hays, an accredited practising dietitian.

PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder among pre-menopausal women, affecting 12 to 21 per cent of Australian women of child-bearing age – or more than half a million Australian women.

Dr Hart’s research showed 61% of the women in her study with PCOS were insulin resistant, compared with 39% of control participants, and that even lean women with PCOS may have the genetic wiring that puts them at an increased health risk.

“If you do have PCOS, eating the right foods, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can improve insulin resistance, helping to lower your risk of health problems linked with PCOS,” says Hays.

“An important message for these women is to reduce saturated fats, found in foods like butter, cream, coconut oil, fatty meat and many biscuits, cakes and pastries, and to choose lower glycaemic index foods, such as wholegrain breads, legumes and oats,” says Hays. 

She says women with PCOS are more likely to struggle with their weight, but healthy eating will help and losing a relatively small amount of weight (5-10%) can improve many of the symptoms of PCOS.

Hays also advised women to ignore current health trends, such as shunning carbohydrate-rich grains and using saturated fats like coconut oil, as evidence is lacking to back up health benefits.


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