The ketogenic (keto) diet may not only help lose that extra fat but also cut down hormone imbalances, enabling women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) to conceive, according to a new study. PCOS is the most common hormone disorder in women, affecting 7-10 percent of women of childbearing age. It can cause infertility and raises the risk of developing diabetes, obesity and other metabolic health problems.
The keto diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet that has shown promising effects in women with PCOS. Research has found it may help women lose weight and maintain weight loss, improve their fertility, optimise their cholesterol levels and normalise their menstrual cycles.
“We found an association between the ketogenic diet and an improvement in reproductive hormone levels, which influence fertility, in women with PCOS,” said Karniza Khalid, from the Ministry of Health Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“These findings have important clinical implications, especially for endocrinologists, gynaecologists and dieticians who, in addition to medical treatment, should carefully plan and customise individual diet recommendations for women with PCOS,” Khalid said.
Women with PCOS are likely to have elevated levels of testosterone and other androgen hormones associated with male reproduction, or irregular periods, and or large ovaries with many small follicles.
In the study, published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of clinical trials in women with PCOS on the keto diet and examined the diet’s effects on their reproductive hormones (follicle stimulating hormone, testosterone and progesterone) and weight change.
They found women with PCOS who were on the keto diet for at least 45 days saw significant weight loss and an improvement in their reproductive hormone levels. Their follicle-stimulating hormone ratio was lower, which means they may have a better chance of ovulating. The women also had lower testosterone levels, which could help with excess hair growth and other symptoms of excess male sex hormones.