Dietary management of women with polycystic ovary syndrome in the United Kingdom: the role of dietitians

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2009 Dec;22(6):551-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2009.00988.x.


Background: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine condition associated with hyperandrogenism, infertility and metabolic dysfunction. Weight management through diet and lifestyle modifications are fundamental to its management; however, presently, there are no official dietary guidelines. The present study aimed to explore the dietary and lifestyle strategies followed by women with PCOS and the contribution of dietitians to its management.

Methods: A questionnaire was completed by 105 UK dietitians focused on the service provided and a patient questionnaire and 7-day food diary were completed by women with PCOS (n = 206 and n = 196, respectively). Food diaries were analysed for energy and macronutrient intake and the questionnaire focused on the dietary advice received.

Results: Advice provided by dietitians focused on a reduction in energy intake (78%) and dietary glycaemic index (77%), often in combination. Of the women with PCOS who were following a diet specifically for their PCOS (57%), regimes included a low glycaemic index (34%), weight loss diets (16%) or a combination (26%). Of interest, 73% of overweight women were not following a diet to promote weight loss. Nutritional information predominately came from books, with only 15% of women having seen a dietitian. Eighty-four percent of women with PCOS who had increased physical activity (48%) self-reported an improvement in their symptoms.

Conclusions: Women with PCOS recognise the importance of diet, but few received dietary advice from a registered dietitian. The dietary information women with PCOS received was often from an unregulated source. A consensus statement of evidence-based dietary advice for women with PCOS is needed and would be a useful resource for dietitians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Counseling
  • Diet Records
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Dietetics / methods*
  • Dietetics / statistics & numerical data
  • Energy Intake*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / diet therapy
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult