By: Pallavi Vathiar. Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Who gets PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a multifaceted disorder characterized by varying clinical presentations and is a common endocrine disorder predominantly affecting women of reproductive age with prevalence ranging from 2.2% to 26% (1).
However, most women find out they have PCOS in their early 20s and 30s, when they have problems getting conceived But it can occur at any age after puberty.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
Levels of Androgens such as testosterone (male sex hormones) are higher in women who have PCOS than normal in women. This partly explains some of the unpleasant side effects of PCOS, such as excess facial hair, a deeper voice and irregular periods including other symptoms like acne, thinning of hair, brittle nails, weight gain, etc.
PCOS is also linked to other health problems, including: Diabetes, High blood pressure, Unhealthy cholesterol, Sleep apnea, Depression and anxiety, Endometrial cancer, etc.
How Protein Helps in PCOS?
For women with polycystic ovary disease (PCOS), increasing dietary protein may be a helpful strategy for preventing all common complications of the condition.
The potential mechanisms that account for weight loss associated with high-protein diets involve increased secretion of satiety hormones , reduced ghrelin secretion, increased thermic effect of food and protein-induced alterations to improve glucose homeostasis (2).
A study conducted by Moran LJ et al found that free androgen levels were much lower in women with PCOS when following a high-protein diet (30% protein), compared to a low-protein diet (15% protein). (3)
Insulin in PCOS:
In young women with PCOS, high insulin levels can cause the ovaries to make more androgen hormones such as testosterone. This can cause increased body hair, acne, and irregular or few periods. Having insulin resistance can increase your risk of developing diabetes (4).
Insulin resistance in PCOS can be a post-binding defect in insulin receptor signaling pathways, and elevated insulin levels may have gonadotropin-augmenting effects on ovarian function. Hyperinsulinemia may also result in suppression of hepatic generation of sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG), which in turn may increase androgenicity. (5)
As per a 6 months trial conducted by Sørenson et al, involved 57 women with PCOS who were given either a standard diet (less than 15% of energy from protein and 30% from fat) or a high-protein diet (more than 40% of energy from protein and 30% from fat). After six months, women given the high-protein diet had greater weight loss 7.6 kgs (16.9 pounds) and greater loss in body fat 6.3 kgs (14.1 pounds) as well as significantly reduced waist circumference. (6)
Is there a cure for PCOS?
There is no cure yet, but there are many ways you can decrease or eliminate PCOS symptoms and feel better.
Losing as little as 5% excess weight can help women ovulate more regularly and lessen other PCOS symptoms. The ideal way to do this is through nutrition and exercise. You may feel that it is difficult to lose excess weight and keep it off, but it is important to continue the effort (7).
Few Helpful Guidelines For PCOS
– Maintain a healthy weight with a healthy diet.
– Exercise regularly.
– Keep a track of your ovulation cycle.
– Keep your mind and body stress-free with meditation and Yoga
– Get at least 6-8hrs of sleep.
– Stay hydrated.
– Take herbal supplements only if necessary.