Debunking myths about PCOS and weight

Time to read 9 min


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition associated with hormone imbalances that affects women. Though the underlying cause of PCOS is not known or well understood, it is believed that an imbalance of sex hormones and resistance to the effects of the hormone insulin are the main problems. These problems result in a characteristic group of signs, symptoms and complications such as excess facial and body hair, irregular menstrual periods, infertility, and insulin resistance.

PCOS is the most common hormone disorder in women and one of the leading causes of infertility, affecting roughly 5-10% of women of childbearing age. The condition can affect girls as young as 11. Because the signs and symptoms often seem unrelated and the diagnostic criteria are not yet clear, most women are not diagnosed until they are in their 20's or 30's. It appears to run in families. Women with sisters who have PCOS are twice as likely to have the condition.

Though the diagnostic criteria are not yet clear, women usually have at least two of the following to be diagnosed with PCOS:
•      Overproduction of male hormones (androgens)
•      No release of eggs from the ovaries (no ovulation)
•      Polycystic ovaries—polycystic literally means "many cysts." A main feature of PCOS is that eggs are not released from a woman's ovaries.  Instead,  fluid  builds  up  around  the  eggs,  forming  sacs  (cysts).  Though  this  feature  is  the  origin  of  the  name  of  the disorder, not all women diagnosed with PCOS have polycystic ovaries.

Blood test What it is Why is it tested ? What it means Nutritional intervention
DHEA An important male hormone , but also present in women in small quantities Symptoms like abnormal or excess hair growth, male pattern baldness and even menstrual irregularities are caused by an increased level of these particular androgens •     DHEA is a precursor for testosterone and oestrogen. therefore these hormones also will be high.
•     High DHEA levels increase fatigue, weight gain, infertility, baldness etc
•     Increased abdominal obesity
•     Reduce foods containing Omega 3 as it promotes DHEA production.
•     Salmon, tuna, shellfish, mackerel, sardines are fatty fish containing Omega 3
•     Adaptogens like Ashwagandha 500mg -2000mg help. Other adaptogens are thulsi, liquorice, drumstick leaves.
•     Reduce your intake of refined carbs.

Testosterone An important male hormone Symptoms like abnormal or excess hair growth, male pattern baldness and even menstrual irregularities are caused by an increased level of these particular androgens •     Increased muscle mass, acne & deepening of voice.
•     Increased risk of infertility
•     Depression , irritability
•      Diindolylmethane, or DIM, present in  cauliflower and broccoli  is known to reduce androgens.
•      Herbal tea consumption helps reduce testosterone levels.
•      If high testosterone is coupled with high DHEA , ensure adequate B6 & Vitamin C levels.
•      Eat foods that increase oestrogen levels ( as high oestrogen reduces testosterone levels) eg Soy, Flax seeds (contra indicated if DHEA is high).
•      Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
•      Spear mint & pepper mint tea have anti androgenic effects.

LH Hormone involved in regulating menses Hormone that promote ovulation Imbalanced levels of these hormones cause both infertility and irregular periods.
High levels of LH increases testosterone levels.
•     Manage insulin levels
•     Omega 3 decreases LH levels
•     Inositol decreases LH ( citrus fruits, sprouts, capsicum, oats, green leafy vegetables)

Blood test What it is Why is it tested ? What it means Nutritional intervention
Progesterone Hormones involved in regulating menses Progesterone helps prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy Low levels of Progesterone usually indicate that ovulation did not occur and no egg was released.
Low progesterone also causes anxiety, weight gain, cellulite, insomnia, fluid retention, thyroid issues amongst others.
•     Ensure adequate Vit B6 & Vitamin C levels as it boosts progesterone production.
•     Adequate zinc levels ensure ovulation ( lamb, liver, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds).
•     Magnesium helps maintain progesterone levels ( green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds).
•     HDL rich foods help progesterone production.
•     High fibre ensures that oestrogen ( which antagonises progesterone ) is low.

Estradiol / Estradiol is a Estradiol is the most Most women with PCOS are •     MUFA rich foods: Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, almonds etc
•     Zinc rich foods: wheat germ, chickpeas, oats, kidney beans
•     Magnesium rich foods: banana, raisins, curds
•     Estrogen rich foods are soya products, flax seeds, sesame seeds, peaches, pista , walnuts, peanuts, olives etc.

Oestrogen female sex important hormone during a surprised to find that their
  hormone female’s reproductive years, estrogen levels fall within the
  produced by and is required for normal range (about 25-75 pg/
  the ovaries, reproductive. ml).  This may be due to the fact
  adrenal gland   that the high levels of insulin
  and also the   and testosterone found in
  placenta   women with PCOS are
  during   sometimes converted to
  pregnancy.   estrogen.
HbA1C Mean blood sugar levels over 3 months Assesses your risk of diabetes. •     In women high insulin levels cause high testosterone •     Alpha Lipoic acid should be increased as it increases insulin sensitivity.
•     Ensure adequate Vitamin B12 levels
•     Ensure adequate Vitamin D levels, as it reduces the risk of insulin resistance.
•     Chromium rich foods improves blood sugar metabolism and

Cortisol Hormone which regulates metabolism, immune response, control sugar level etc To rule out Cushing’s syndrome. High cortisol levels can lead to symptoms such as weight gain, hypertension, high blood sugar, osteoporosis and fragile skin while low levels may cause weight loss, weakening of muscles, fatigue, low blood pressure, vomiting and diarrhea and loss of consciousness. To reduce Cortisol levels:
•     Anti inflammatory diet: whole grains, no processed, nuts
, fish, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon
•     DHEA promoting foods: wild yams, soya, flax seeds, salmon, olive oil
•     Vitamin B complex
•     Adaptogens
To increase cortisol levels:
•     Dark chocolate, pro & pre bionics, green tea, banana , pears helps increase cortisol levels.
•     Avoid caffeine,  alcohol, processed food, & refined sugar.

Thyroid panel Hormones that are essential  to regulate growth and metabolism Many times women with symptoms of PCOS may have an underactive thyroid. Be sure to test for these markers along with thyroid peroxidase which can help discover an autoimmune condition. Thyroid dysfunction and associated metabolic imbalance & weight gain. •     Avoid goitrogen rich food like raw broccoli, cabbage, soy etc
•     Thiocynates are sulphur containing compounds- which make it harder for thyroid glad to absorb iodine. Foods that form thiocyanates are Corn, flax seeds. sweet potatoes, broccoli, lima beans, radish , turnip
•     Flavanoids ( like apigenin)present in millets reduce the activity thyroid peroxidase, the enzyme that inserts iodine into thyroid hormone. Apigenin is also present in onions, redwine, beer.
•     Consume at least 150mcg of iodine everyday.


Obesity is the condition when the person has excess body fat. Traditionally, it is defined by body mass index (BMI) and further evaluated in terms of fat distribution via the waist–hip ratio.BMI isn't used to definitively diagnose obesity because people who are very muscular sometimes have a high BMI without excess fat. But for most people, BMI is a useful indication of whether they're a healthy weight, overweight or obese.However, Body composition analysis or a DEXA scan gives a better indicator of fat loss.

Obesity is an epidemic and it is the root cause of major diseases. Obesity is generally caused by consuming more calories, particularly those in fatty and sugary foods, than you burn off through physical activity. The excess energy is stored by the body as fat.
Obesity is an increasingly common problem because for many people modern living involves eating excessive amounts of cheap, high- calorie food and spending a lot of time sitting down, at desks, on sofas or in cars.

There are also some underlying health conditions that can occasionally contribute to weight gain, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), although these type of conditions don’t usually cause weight problems if they're effectively controlled with medication. Some forms of obesity also are also genetic.

Blood test What it is Why is it tested ? What it means Nutritional intervention
Vitamin D Vitamin To asses if Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of increased fat percentage •     Deficiency of Vitamin D causes obesity.
•     Ensuring healthy levels reduces fat percentage
•     Vitamin D deficiency also affects thyroid production.
•     Low concentrations of vitamins are linked to accelerated atherosclerosis through increased oxidative stress.
•     In most cases Vitamin D supplementation is needed.
•     Ensure that a source of fat is taken with the Vitamin D supplement.
•     Vitamin D in large quantities can be toxic. Monitor blood levels frequently.
Vitamin B Vitamin Low Vitamin B levels are associated with obesity. •     Healthy Vitamin B levels boost metabolism.
•     Vitamin B helps to release energy and reduce fatigue.
•     Vitamin B is a water soluble vitamin, so regular intake of Vitamin B rich foods is needed.
HbA1C Glycosylated hemoglobin Insulin resistance is higher in obese population. •     Indicates risk of diabetes or pre diabetes.
•     Assesses insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by cells.
•     Moderate to low GI Index food.
•     Small frequent meals.
•     Adequate fibre and protein.
Lipid profile   Lipid dysregulation is a prominent  feature of obesity . •      Measure various types of lipids in the blood. •     Diet should be given for each component of the lipid profile which is disregulated.
Thyroid profile   Thyroid hormone imbalance is a common cause of obesity •     Measures various horses involved in regulating thyroid levels. •     Diet should be given for each component of the thyroid profile which is disregulated.
PCOS   PCOS is a common cause of obesity  

•     Diet should be given for each component of the PCOS which is disregulated.

Blood test What it is Why is it tested ? What it means Nutritional intervention
Omega 3 Fatty acid Increases appetite Excessive or unnecessary supplementation of Vitamin leads to overconsumption •     Ensure that Omega 3 consumption is in healthy limits.
Zinc Mineral Important for proper taste and smell. Zinc regulates appetite. •     Most people, especially children have zinc deficiency.
•     Almonds are a good source of Zinc, however it contains phytic acid. Soaking the almonds helps to neutralise the enzyme making digestion easier.
Genetic tests Genetic test using saliva Genes have a big impact on development of obesity. •     Some genes change metabolism of macro and micro nutrients.
•     Some forms of obesity stems from genetic risks.
•     Dietary intervention depends on genes involved.
•     Genetic markers such as FTO, FABP2, etc indicate obesity. Ratios of macronutrients can be determined by genetic impact on the metabolism of these nutrients.
ESR Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. To detect the presence of inflammation caused by diabetes. •     Its a non specific marker of inflammation and can indicate physical, physiological and psychological stress.
•     Indicates poor response to therapy.
•     Avoid processed &  sugary food.
•     Anti inflammatory diet - Vitamin C & E rich food.
•     Consume raw fruits and vegetables.
•     Drink adequate amounts of water.
CRP / hsCRP C-reactive protein/ high sensitivity CRP To identify the presence of inflammation and to monitor response to treatment for an inflammatory disorder •     CRP & hsCRP levels are increased during glucose intolerance.
•     High levels could also indicate risk of heart disease & stroke.
•     Avoid processed &  sugary food.
•     Anti inflammatory diet - Vitamin C & E rich food.
•     Consume raw fruits and vegetables.
•     Drink adequate amounts of water.
Gut microbiome A stool test to identify the microbial composition of the small intestine Microbial composition determine not only how food is metabolised but also how some hormones Obesity and obesity-related metabolic disorders are characterized by specific alteration in the composition and function of the human gut microbiome. Nutritional intervention depends on gut microbial composition. A cladogram helps to understand what is the proportion of healthy bacteria versus obesogenic bacteria.

* Medical Disclaimer - The following information is for educational purposes only. No information provided on this website, including text, graphic, and images, are intended as substitutes for professional medical advice. Please consult with your doctor about specific medical advice pertaining to your condition(s). 

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