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Can my diet influence the risk of getting PCOS?

Updated: May 11, 2023

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a growing public health issue among women affecting the reproductive and metabolic systems, as well as having an impact on psychological well-being. PCOS has been found to affect 8-13% of women of reproductive age with up to 70% of women still undiagnosed. PCOS can be dependent on ethnicity, including individuals of aboriginal descent, who have a higher risk of prevalence and complications.

PCOS characteristics include:

  • Depression;

  • Anxiety;

  • Negative body image;

  • Infertility;

  • Pregnancy complications;

  • Irregular menstrual cycles;

  • Hirsutism (excessive growth of dark/ coarse hair on face, back and chest);

  • Metabolic syndrome;

  • Pre-diabetes;

  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus and;

  • Cardiovascular risk factors.

Your diet and PCOS

Current evidence suggests that there is not one diet that can prevent or reduce the impacts of PCOS in terms of improving metabolism, psychological well-being or reproduction. The diets proven against improving PCOS outcomes include the DASH diet, high protein diet and high carb diet. Therefore, maintaining a balanced diet with a variety of fruit, veg, proteins, grains, good fats and your occasional treat is the way to go. However, those with diabetes or insulin resistance may need to adopt a low GI diet to maintain stable insulin levels.

Additionally, it is suggested to undertake 30 minutes of intense activity (eg. Jogging, running, dancing, swimming, sports) or 60 minutes of light activity (eg. Casual walking, lightweight training, housework) to reduce the risk of PCOS. This is due to some studies finding a positive association between increased physical activity and improved blood sugar levels, mental health, quality of life, reproductive outcomes and functional capabilities. Furthermore, these benefits occur independently of significant weight loss, which is a listed risk factor in the guidelines of PCOS management.

It is very important to work with your GP and specialists to ensure you get the best possible care, whether it be tracking your progress on daily habits, provision of medications or monitoring fertility and pregnancy outcomes.

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