Are Ketogenic Diets Good for PCOS?
Ketogenic diets are a hot topic right now in the PCOS, diabetes and weight loss communities. Proponents of the ketogenic diet (keto for short) claim it lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, decreases inflammation, promotes weight loss and may help prevent or even reverse type 2 diabetes. And if that’s not enough, you are given the green light to eat as much fat as you want and don’t have to count calories! Hmmm … sounds pretty appealing (if you like fat!) After all, it gets tiring to hear the same old “eat less, eat fewer carbs, eat low glycemic carbs” etc. But it’s not quite this simple. There are numerous pros and cons to keto diets. In this next month, I will be doing a series of blog posts, articles and even a podcast on the keto diet to help you determine if it’s right for you.
What do health professionals think about ketogenic diets?
As a registered dietitian, I must say that my initial instinct when I heard about the resurgence of keto diets was “Ugh”. This is just horrible. How can we be promoting this diet as having ANY health benefits aside from some initial rapid weight loss? And it’s not just me. Ketogenic diets are a hotly debated topic in the medical world. The majority of MDs, NDs, registered dietitians and health coaches are against ketogenic diets for several reasons including: nutritionally unbalanced, excessive in fat, unknown long term safety, possible negative effect on gut microbiome, and
not sustainable for many people, etc.
On the other hand, there is a growing number of health professionals who are finding numerous health benefits with the ketogenic diet and are recommending it to their patients. There are also many women with PCOS who follow this diet and report having success with decreasing symptoms and promoting weight loss.
I became #ketocurious and have done quite a bit of research on this topic as well as attended a 3 day Low Carb Conference in Breckenridge, Co in this past March.
I’ll get more into the Pros and Cons in upcoming article and blog post.
Things I’ve read on social media
And it’s not just health professionals who are conflicted. Women with PCOS are even more confused. Here are some of the things I’ve read on social media:
1. A women recently diagnosed with PCOS was very distraught as she thought she HAD to follow a keto diet for PCOS.
My thoughts: This was sad to me. Having PCOS in itself is extremely stressful. I can’t imagine how a woman would feel if she thought she HAD to avoid almost all carbs for the rest of her life.
2. Women beating themselves up for falling off the keto wagon
My thoughts: Women with PCOS have increased incidence of eating disorders, disordered eating, depression and anxiety. Feeling like you HAVE to eat in this restricted way is only setting you up for more disordered eating and body image issues.
3. I was contacted by a woman who wanted to try keto. She had PCOS, was insulin resistant, obese, and had serious carb craving She was was afraid to try it as some health professionals online were strongly advising against it.
My thoughts: If a women wants to try keto, she should be guided in the healthiest way to do it. It is possible that it could work well for her.
Take home points:
– There is no ONE diet (or nutrition plan!) that works best for all women with PCOS. Just because someone on facebook does it and gets great results, it does not mean it’s right for you.
– There are very few studies done on what diet is best for PCOS … as it’s not possible to do. We all have different metabolisms, genes, gut microbiomes, activity levels, food preferences, etc. So there will never be ONE best diet for PCOS. It needs to be very individualized.
– Please do not feel you have to follow a very low carb diets or ketogenic diet if you have PCOS
– That being said, ketogenic diets work well for a small percentage of the population, including women with PCOS. Benefits can include weight loss, lowered blood sugar and insulin levels, decreased carb cravings, etc.
– If you decide to try a ketogenic diet, make sure you do your research and make it as healthy as possible. And check with your physician if you have any medical problems, especially if you are on meds for diabetes or high blood pressure. More on the cons in a later blog post, but I also don’t recommend a strict keto diet for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as very little research has been done in this area,
Bottom line: I am not a proponent of keto for the majority of women with PCOS, however I am open minded that it may work for some. Stay tuned for my upcoming articles, podcast and blog posts on the keto diet!
Stay tuned for:
My article on Pros and Cons of Keto for PCOS in the upcoming PCOS Challenge Magazine
Podcast I did with PCOS Diva on PCOS and Keto … will be airing 1st week in May
My upcoming blog posts on:
-Pros and Cons of Keto Diet
– How to Make Your Keto Diet as Healthy as Possible
– My Personal Experience on Keto Diet
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.