What is the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet consists of a high fat (around 80%) and low carbohydrate intake. The main source of fats can include; butter, avocados, nuts, seeds, oil etc. Consumption is encouraged from healthier fats such as mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. Rather than saturated fats from foods such as; bacon, sausages, crisps etc. Protein sources include chicken, fish and lean meat. The rest of the diet is made up of a small number of carbohydrates avoiding high-carbohydrate foods such as starchy grains.
Whilst popular, the ketogenic diet is commonly difficult to follow due to its restrictive nature. Often found to be stressful, unsatisfactory and unsustainable.
The ketogenic diet and PCOS
If you have PCOS, you may have been recommended a ketogenic diet, this is due to the theory a low carbohydrate diet may help with insulin resistance; a common symptom associated with PCOS. Many studies have been conducted to assess the impact the diet may have on associated symptoms.
The research behind the keto diet and PCOS
One study investigated the impact of diet on PCOS symptoms in 11 women. Carbohydrate intake was limited to 20g a day for a 6-month period. Over this 24-week period, results did lead to significant weight loss, improved LH/FSH ratio, and improved insulin levels.
An additional study was conducted on 20 PCOS participants, of whom only 18 completed the 3-month study due to the restrictive nature of the diet. For those who did complete the study, improvements in the menstrual cycle, liver function, blood glucose levels and body weight were found.
Several other studies that have been done have also recorded similar results in terms of body weight, glucose levels, improving periods and helping balance hormones.
But are these results conclusive?
Whilst the results appear promising, it is important to point out that the studies were carried out on a very small number of participants over short periods of time. Further research on larger samples of individuals over longer periods of time is required to deem results conclusive.
3 things to consider before trying keto for PCOS
Is the keto diet sustainable for you? Due to the highly restrictive nature it can be hard to follow. Whilst some evidence suggests it may be helpful in symptom management there are non-restrictive ways of managing symptoms including enjoying a varied balanced diet.
The ketogenic diet may not provide high amounts of fibre, which can play an important role in PCOS management. Not only does fibre help to keep you fuller for longer, but it can also improve gut health and aid in balancing blood sugar levels.
A common, and completely normal, symptom of PCOS is carbohydrate cravings. By restricting carbohydrates on a keto diet, you could increase cravings and decrease satisfaction. Consequently making the diet even harder to follow.
PCOS and the keto diet – Conclusion
To conclude, if the ketogenic diet is something that you have been wanting to try to see how it affects your PCOS symptoms, you can give it a go. But in saying this, there is no definitive benefit to reducing carbohydrates in the diet. You can enjoy a full and balanced diet whilst managing your PCOS symptoms.