Background: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age and is associated with obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin resistance. Because low carbohydrate diets have been shown to reduce insulin resistance, this pilot study investigated the six-month metabolic and endocrine effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (LCKD) on overweight and obese women with PCOS.
Results: Eleven women with a body mass index >27 kg/m2 and a clinical diagnosis of PCOS were recruited from the community. They were instructed to limit their carbohydrate intake to 20 grams or less per day for 24 weeks. Participants returned every two weeks to an outpatient research clinic for measurements and reinforcement of dietary instruction. In the 5 women who completed the study, there were significant reductions from baseline to 24 weeks in body weight (-12%), percent free testosterone (-22%), LH/FSH ratio (-36%), and fasting insulin (-54%). There were non-significant decreases in insulin, glucose, testosterone, HgbA1c, triglyceride, and perceived body hair. Two women became pregnant despite previous infertility problems.
Conclusion: In this pilot study, a LCKD led to significant improvement in weight, percent free testosterone, LH/FSH ratio, and fasting insulin in women with obesity and PCOS over a 24 week period.