Following a low GI diet is recommended for those with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), but what is it and why is it good for PCOS?
Low GI is short for ‘low glycemic index’. It is a way of describing how much a food increases your blood sugar levels in comparison to white sugar.
The glycemic index runs from 0-100, with sugar being at 100.
What is a Low GI Diet?
A low GI diet is one that is based on having mostly low GI foods. Foods which are low GI are those which have a GI level of less than 55 (1).
Most vegetables and fruits, dairy, fats, nuts, beans, pulses and wholegrains are low GI (2).
In comparison, foods which have a high GI would be cakes, sweets and biscuits.
However, it is important to remember that foods may vary in their GI depending on how processed they are. For instance, mashed potato has a higher GI than boiled new potatoes (3).
Why is The Low GI Diet Good For PCOS?
Those who have PCOS are also insulin resistant (4).
Insulin is a hormone which is produced in response to your blood sugar levels increasing. The higher your blood sugar goes, the more insulin is produced.
Unfortuantely, having PCOS means that your insulin doesn’t work very well and so you have to produce much more to have the same affect and keep those blood sugars under control.
Increased levels of insulin leads to increased levels of male hormones in the body (5). Male hormones in PCOS women causes their symptoms.
Therefore, if we can avoid increased blood sugar levels by following a low GI diet, then this will lead to less insulin being produced. Less insulin means less male hormones which will help with PCOS symptoms.
Is Low GI Enough?
Simply only eating low GI food is not the only consideration for women with PCOS.
Many low GI foods are also high in calories ,for example fat. Eating too many calories can lead to weight gain which will worsen that insulin resistance effect.
Eating large portion sizes may also be a problem, as you need to consider the overall Glycemic Load of the meal (6). In other words, too much low or medium GI foods eaten together will cause an unwanted blood sugar rise.
Take Away Message
Eating a diet based around low GI foods is perfect for women with PCOS as it will help to reduce their symptoms. However, care should be taken to avoid large portion sizes and keep fat content to within recommended limits.
For more personalised advice, please contact me, Dietitian Kirsten, on 07827817013 or admin@thefoodtreatmentclinic.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.