The latest on your diet & PCOS


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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. Not only does PCOS have serious consequences for fertility and hormonal control in general, in many cases it is also closely related to insulin resistance – the hormonal condition that can make weight loss very difficult. To date research investigating the diet specifics associated with the best outcomes for women battling PCOS has been scarce but new research published in the the scientific journal Nutrition & Dietetics has identified some dietary specifics which may be preventing women dealing with PCOS from reaching their weight loss goals.
The study reported researchers comparing the diets of 38 women with PCOS and 30 control women and found that while overall calorie intake was similar in both groups, women with PCOS were getting more of their daily calories from saturated fat (around 30-40 more) and less from carbohydrates (around 110 less), compared to women without PCOS. This finding suggests that while women dealing with PCOS are aware of the need to keep their carbohydrate intake controlled, they are simply doing this by eating more fat, a scenario unlikely to be related to positive weight loss and health outcomes long term.

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Generally speaking, women dealing with PCOS will get good weight loss outcomes with a dietary prescription of 30-40% total carbs, or 100-140g of total carbs each day. In food terms this translates into carbs at both breakfast and lunch, along with a small amount at dinner, for example a 1/2 cup serve of potato or sweet potato. In general, when we cut one food out of our diets, we tend to simply replace it with something else and this study suggests that when we women with PCOS cut back on carbs they in turn eat more fat. Again in food terms this is likely to mean a salad with loads of avocado, dressing and high fat meat, but still considered better than a sandwich simply as there is no bread. Another example is restaurant meals – fried meats or fish in place of pasta or rice – lower in carbs but not calories or fat.

It is the necessity for dietary specificity when you have PCOS that means you need sound, evidence based dietary advice to achieve these dietary targets on a daily basis. PCOS is one of the most challenging metabolic conditions to manage and achieve sustainable weight loss that will still mean you get to eat foods you like and enjoy eating. So if you have PCOS, see a dietitian with experience managing the condition. It will make the diet and weight loss thing a whole lot easier.

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