Can polyphenols help with PCOS management?

Understanding PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly referred to as PCOS, is a common endocrine condition. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, it often goes underdiagnosed and undertreated. The condition is characterised by a collection of symptoms including excess hair growth, hair loss on the head, acne and oily skin, irregular periods, and infertility. Whilst it cannot be cured it can be managed by lifestyle changes and medication.

What are polyphenols

There are approximately 8,000 different naturally occurring plant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, tea and cocoa, known as polyphenols. Due to their potential health benefits, particularly anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, they have been widely studied. Found to be important for heart and brain health maintenance, as well as reducing the risk of specific types of cancer development.

Plant foods contain an array of polyphenols which work together, hence a wide variety is recommended.

The health benefits of polyphenols

Polyphenols and brain health

As inflammation has been found to be a factor in influencing mental health conditions, it may not come as a surprise that the anti-inflammatory properties found in polyphenols have been associated with brain health. Evidence suggests they play a role in the protection against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and mental health conditions, like depression which people with PCOS are at an increased risk of.

Polyphenols and gut health

Around 90% of plant food polyphenol content is not digested until reaching the large intestine, where microorganisms then digest them. Thus, the specific polyphenol benefits may be largely based on an individual’s gut microbiota.

A two-way relationship exists between polyphenols and the gut microbiota. Polyphenols act as a prebiotic, while bacteria break down polyphenols to be absorbed and utilised by the body. Bacteria utilise the polyphenols as a food source, allowing them to thrive.

Research now suggests there is a close association between gut health and PCOS. One of the best ways to support your gut health is to eat a wide variety of plant-based foods.

Polyphenols and PCOS

As discussed, polyphenols have many health benefits, leading research to explore their therapeutic potential in PCOS. Oxidative stress, metabolic, hormonal and endocrine disruptions are associated with PCOS. As polyphenols have been found to act as a defence system against multiple stresses including metabolic diseases, it is suggested they may be part of an effective treatment strategy for PCOS. Further studies are required for conclusive results, and safe recommendations.

While further research is needed, to confirm and provide recommendations for polyphenols in PCOS management, evidence supports their role in promoting overall health. If looking to increase polyphenols in your diet, try to consume a variety of plant-based foods, the more diverse the better.

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