PCOS Nutrition for Weight Loss
June 14, 2022

PCOS Nutrition for Weight Loss

Weight gain is a common symptom experienced by women with PCOS. Optimising your nutrition can help with sustainable and healthy weight loss, read on to learn more about specific nutrients to include in your diet.

PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal women’s condition characterised by high levels of androgens (male hormones) in the body. Women with PCOS experience symptoms such as weight gain — particularly around the abdomen, irregular periods, acne, hair loss, unwanted body hair and fertility issues.

One of the major causes of PCOS is insulin resistance. When we eat, our digestive system turns the food into glucose (sugar). Glucose is the main fuel source for every cell in our bodies. Once it is broken down, it is sent into the bloodstream to feed our cells. The pancreas produces insulin to help the cells absorb the glucose. The job of insulin is to get the glucose out of the bloodstream and inside the cell.

In polycystic ovary syndrome, weight gain is often linked to our insulin no longer working as it should to keep our blood sugar under control — insulin resistance. This means our body resists the insulin, making it less effective and resulting in more glucose in the bloodstream.

The body’s answer to this is to make more insulin to try and to bring the high blood sugar down. When there is a lot of excess insulin and blood sugar in our bloodstream, it signals our body to put that excess sugar in storage. We can store some sugar in our liver and muscles, however, when these are full our body starts to store the extra sugar as fat. This can start to cause PCOS weight gain.

Nutrition for PCOS weight loss

As well as following a healthy PCOS diet that regulates our insulin and blood sugar, there are some key nutrients that can help the body better respond to insulin. This means the body will need to produce less of it and less sugar will be stored as fat, assisting with weight loss and weight gain prevention. These include:

  • Inositol
  • Chromium
  • Alpha lipoic acid

Inositol for PCOS

Inositols are, ironically, a naturally occurring sugar that our body makes. They help balance chemicals that control your mood swings, blood sugar, fertility, and metabolism — the process of turning the food you eat into energy.

You can get inositols from brown rice, whole wheat items, rockmelon, grapefruit, other citrus fruits, almonds and walnuts. You can also get inositol as a nutritional supplement. Myo-Inositol is the form of inositol that has done well in clinical trials for insulin resistance.

Chromium for PCOS

Chromium is an essential nutrient. It helps insulin receptor sites on muscle cells work more efficiently. Chromium binds to the glucose transporter and pushes the glucose into the muscle cell. If there is no chromium or not enough of it, the glucose can’t enter the cell and instead it floats around the bloodstream, so the body produces more insulin to try and cope.

When chromium is present in optimal levels, the muscle cells are able to take up glucose from the blood and use it for energy. Less glucose in the blood means less insulin is required, helping the body’s insulin resistance come back into balance and assisting weight loss.

Chromium can be taken as a supplement and is found in food like broccoli, liver, potatoes, wholegrains, seafood, and meats.

Alpha lipoic acid for PCOS

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring substance found within our cells. This substance converts glucose into energy. ALA helps to improve insulin sensitivity, thereby controlling blood sugar levels.

The body makes small amounts of ALA. It’s available as a supplement and can be found in foods like spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, potatoes, yams, brewer's yeast, liver and rice bran.

Nutrition is a key player in PCOS treatment. Of course, please speak to your healthcare professional before taking any new supplements to ensure it’s right for you. If you're keen on losing weight or preventing weight gain by optimising your PCOS nutrition, you should see a healthcare provider who specialises in lifestyle medicine, or a dietician or nutritionist.

Dr Michelle Woolhouse

Integrative GP and Vively Medical Director

Dr Michelle Woolhouse is an integrative GP, with over 20 years experience treating chronic conditions through lifestyle medicine