An isocaloric low glycemic index diet improves insulin sensitivity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Nov;113(11):1523-1531. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.06.347. Epub 2013 Aug 30.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder affecting 5% to 10% of women worldwide. Approximately half of women with PCOS are lean, yet may still present with central obesity and metabolic disturbances. Low-glycemic index (GI) dietary intervention studies have demonstrated improvements in insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant populations; however, there is little evidence of this effect in women with PCOS. This research aimed to determine the efficacy of an isocaloric low-GI dietary intervention on insulin sensitivity, independent of weight change, in women with PCOS. A nonrandomized 12-week low-GI dietary intervention, preceded by a 12-week habitual diet control phase and proceeded by a 12-week follow-up phase was conducted. Dietary intake, body composition, and metabolic risk markers were determined at baseline, after completion of the habitual diet control phase, and after the low-GI dietary intervention. Twenty-six participants were recruited at baseline, 22 commenced and 21 participants completed the low-GI dietary intervention phase. The primary outcome was change in insulin sensitivity. Secondary outcomes included assessment of changes to lipids, body composition, and estimated macronutrient intake. Repeated measures analysis of variance with Bonferroni correction were used to detect changes to outcomes across study timepoints. Twenty-one women with PCOS with mean (± standard deviation) age of 32.1±6.7 years completed the 12-week low-GI dietary intervention. As expected, no significant changes occurred during the 12-week habitual diet control phase. However, during the dietary intervention phase, dietary GI decreased from 54.5±3.5 to 48.6±5.1 (P<0.001) with a concurrent small reduction in saturated fat intake (12.4%±3% to 11.7%±3% contribution from energy, P=0.03), despite no specific recommendations to modify fat intake. Measures of insulin sensitivity and nonesterified fatty acid improved after intervention (P=0.03 and P=0.01, respectively). This is the first study to implement an isocaloric low-GI diet in women with PCOS and findings may contribute to the limited research in this area.

Keywords: Glycemic index; Insulin resistance; Polycystic ovary syndrome.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / blood
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Lipids