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A burning question...keto for PCOS?...



Prevention of weight gain, monitoring of weight and encouraging evidence-based and socio-culturally appropriate healthy lifestyle is important in PCOS (Teede et al., 2018). PCOS is widely known to be associated with Obesity, Insulin Resistance and often Diabetes (Escobar-Morreale et al., 2012). Lifestyle modification is a first line treatment for PCOS, yet no specific diet has been shown to be superior (El Hayek et al., 2016) although some studies suggest that excess carbohydrate consumption can worsen the metabolic derangements in PCOS (Barrea et al., 2018).


A new study highlights the potential benefits of a Ketogenic Diet for treating PCOS, but it is not your average keto diet as we know it (Paoli et al., 2020). The study sample was small, the duration short (12 weeks) and it was not a standard Ketogenic diet. Instead, the study employed a ketogenic Mediterranean diet with phytoextracts known as KEMPHY. The calories are restricted to approximately 1600/1700 kcal/day and you could eat unlimited green leafy vegetables but limited amounts of meat, eggs and fish along with 4 times daily high protein/low carb food supplements that gave the taste and flavour of carbs. The study also involved liquid herbal extracts used to alleviate common side effects of keto diets (Paoli et al., 2020).


At the end of the 12-week period an average of 1.5 stone weight loss was reported which was reflected in the reduction of BMI. Fat body mass, Visceral Adipose Tissue, Insulin, Glucose, HOMA-IR, Total Cholesterol, LDL, Triglycerides and DHEAs were reduced after the 12-week period too. There was a small reduction in hirsutism but given the short period that is to be expected. Notably, Luteinising Hormone: Follicle Stimulating Hormone ratios improved too (Paoli et al., 2020).


So, to return to our title and the question…keto for PCOS? Maybe not just yet but this is a very exciting piece of research and hopefully will generate more longitudinal studies.

© PCOS Vitality, 2020


PCOS Vitality does not give medical advice nor nutritional advice and it does not recommend any particular course of action or treatment. If you need medical advice speak to your GP or healthcare provider.

Barrea, L., Marzullo, P., Muscogiuri, G., Di Somma, C., Scacchi, M., Orio, F., Aimaretti, G., Colao, A., & Savastano, S. (2018). Source and amount of carbohydrate in the diet and inflammation in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Nutrition Research Reviews, 31(2), 291–301. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954422418000136

El Hayek, S., Bitar, L., Hamdar, L. H., Mirza, F. G., & Daoud, G. (2016). Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome: An updated overview. In Frontiers in Physiology (Vol. 7, Issue APR). Frontiers Media S.A. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00124

Escobar-Morreale, H. F., Samino, S., Insenser, M., Vinaixa, M., Luque-Ramírez, M., Lasunción, M. A., & Correig, X. (2012). Metabolic Heterogeneity in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Is Determined by Obesity: Plasma Metabolomic Approach Using GC-MS. Clinical Chemistry, 58(6), 999–1009. https://doi.org/10.1373/clinchem.2011.176396

Paoli, A., Mancin, L., Giacona, M. C., Bianco, A., & Caprio, M. (2020). Effects of a ketogenic diet in overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Transl Med, 18, 104. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-020-02277-0

Teede, H. J., Misso, M. L., Costello, M. F., Dokras, A., Laven, J., Moran, L., Piltonen, T., Norman, R. J., Andersen, M., Azziz, R., Balen, A., Baye, E., Boyle, J., Brennan, L., Broekmans, F., Dabadghao, P., Devoto, L., Dewailly, D., Downes, L., … Yildiz, B. O. (2018). Recommendations from the international evidence-based guideline for the assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertility and Sterility, 110(3), 364–379. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.05.004

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