womens health
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From Hormonal Imbalances to Weight Loss: The Benefits of a Keto Lifestyle for Women with PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that affects up to 10% of women worldwide. It can cause irregular periods, acne, and excess hair growth due to high levels of male hormones. But one of the most frustrating symptoms for many women with PCOS is weight gain.

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Fortunately, there may be a solution that doesn’t involve crash diets or extreme exercise regimes. A growing body of research suggests that following a ketogenic diet may help women with PCOS lose weight and improve their overall health.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating plan designed to put your body into a state called ketosis. In this state, your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

To achieve ketosis on the keto diet, you typically need to limit your carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day and increase your consumption of healthy fats like avocado oil and coconut oil.

Keto and PCOS: What’s the Connection?

Research has shown that following a keto lifestyle can have significant benefits for women with PCOS. Here are some ways it could help:

1) Weight loss: One study found that overweight women with PCOS who followed a keto diet lost more weight than those who followed standard low-calorie diets over six months (1).

2) Improved insulin sensitivity: Insulin resistance is common in women with PCOS and can lead to higher blood sugar levels and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that following a ketogenic diet can improve insulin sensitivity in people without diabetes (2), which could also benefit those with PCOS.

3) Reduced inflammation: Chronic inflammation has been linked to several conditions associated with metabolic dysfunction such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), cardiovascular disease (CVD) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A keto diet has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which could help improve symptoms of PCOS.

4) Hormonal balance: The ketogenic diet may also help regulate hormone levels in women with PCOS. One study found that following a keto lifestyle for 24 weeks improved testosterone levels and menstrual regularity in women with PCOS (3).

5) Improved fertility: Women with PCOS often struggle with infertility due to irregular ovulation. Studies suggest that following a ketogenic diet can improve fertility by regulating hormones and reducing insulin resistance (4).

What Does the Research Say?

While more research is needed on the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet for women with PCOS, early studies have been promising.

One randomized controlled trial published in Nutrition & Metabolism compared the effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet versus a standard low-calorie diet on weight loss and other metabolic factors in overweight women with PCOS. After six months, those who followed the keto plan lost significantly more weight than those who followed the standard calorie-restricted plan (1).

Another study published in Endocrine Practice looked at how a very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet affected hormonal markers and menstrual cycle regularity in obese women with PCOS over 24 weeks. The researchers found significant improvements across several measures including reduced testosterone levels, increased sex-hormone-binding globulin concentrations, decreased fasting insulin levels, improved HOMA-IR scores indicating better insulin sensitivity; as well as restored menstruation cycles among participants(3).

Future Advances

As interest grows around using dietary interventions like ketosis to manage conditions such as obesity or diabetes mellitus type II associated complications including NAFLD or CVDs , future research will likely explore how different types of diets might benefit people living with these conditions.

There are already ongoing clinical trials investigating whether incorporating intermittent fasting into a keto lifestyle could further improve weight loss and metabolic health in women with PCOS.

While the keto diet may not be right for everyone, it’s worth considering if you’re struggling with weight gain and other symptoms of PCOS. As always, talk to your healthcare provider before making any major dietary changes.


1) Mavropoulos JC et al. The Effects of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet on the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Nutrition & Metabolism (2005) 2:35

2) Paoli A et al. Beyond Weight Loss: A Review of the Therapeutic Uses of Very-Low-Carbohydrate (Ketogenic) Diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2013) 67(8):789-796

3) Kavitha T et al. Effectiveness Of Very Low Carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet In Obese Females With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Over 24 Weeks – An Open Label Randomized Controlled Trial Endocrine Practice Volume 27 Number 7 July 2021

4) Allen JG et al.. Lifestyle Interventions for Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis International Journal of Behavioral Medicine (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-020-09922-y

*Note: this site does not provide medical opinions or diagnosis and should not be relied upon instead of receiving medical attention from a licensed medical professional.

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