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PCOS Diet...

From the Washington Post

Low Carbohydrate PCOS Diets: Hype, Hoax or Cure?
Tuesday, January 18, 2000; Page HE15

It sounds too good to be true, but many women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) say that when they eat more vegetables and meats and less bread and fruit, they start ovulating and lose weight. As a result, a growing number of nutritionists and a few physicians are advocating so-called insulin-sensitizing diets, which are similar to the "protein power" regimes being promoted in many best-selling books.

When a healthy person eats a carbohydrate, insulin levels rise to break down the resulting sugar in the blood. But women with PCOS are insulin-resistant, meaning they have defective cells that hamper this metabolism and increase the risk of diabetes. In addition, to try to compensate for the defect, their bodies produce more and more insulin, which can damage the insulin-producing system.

To make matters worse, this excess of insulin can trigger bouts of hunger that lead to overeating and weight gains.

Proteins and fats, by contrast, do not spark the same insulin surge in women with PCOS. As a result, these nutrients are metabolized normally.

Most doctors treating PCOS do not advocate high-protein diets, and they warn their patients not to eliminate carbohydrates completely. Yet these same physicians acknowledge that many patients who change their eating habits do feel better – and some have even gotten pregnant without fertility treatments.

Brenda Fruchtl, a 26-year-old from Hershey, Pa., is a believer. Last January she tried a high-protein diet because nothing else had enabled her to shed weight and start ovulating. While giving in to a hometown Hershey's Kiss now and then, Fruchtl said, "I would eat tuna and salads, even nuts and cheese, but very little fruit and breads." (Fruits have natural sugars that boost insulin.)

Within a month, Fruchtl got a menstrual cycle without drugs for the first time in years. By mid-March, she was pregnant. "We'd been trying for two years," said Fruchtl. "I was so happy because we could no longer afford the fertility drugs and this was something with no side effects and no risk of multiples."

Her physician, Richard Legro, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, says the diet "definitely contributed to her pregnancy. This is not an isolated incidence."

Other specialists are cautious but optimistic. Andrea Dunaif, chief of the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, does not promote the protein diet but suggests that women with PCOS should try a diet with fewer carbohydrates than one that focuses on low fat and high carbohydrates. She and several colleagues say the protein diets make sense, but there is no scientific evidence proving that they correct the underlying abnormalities of PCOS.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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