Best Foods for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Best Foods for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
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Which foods and cooking methods should we choose and avoid, given the role advanced glycation end products (glycotoxins) may play in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Over the [past] 2 decades there has been increasing evidence supporting an important contribution from food-derived advanced glycation end products (AGEs),” also known as glycotoxins, to “increased oxidative stress and inflammation, processes that play a major role in the causation of chronic diseases”—including, potentially, polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with PCOS tend to have nearly twice the circulating AGE levels in their bloodstream.

Polycystic ovary syndrome may be “the most common [hormonal] abnormality” among young women in the United States, a common cause of infertility, menstrual dysfunction, and excess facial and body hair. Now, “the prevalence of obesity” is also higher in women with PCOS. So, since the highest AGE levels are found in broiled, grilled, fried, and roasted foods of mostly “animal origin,” is it possible that this causal chain starts with a bad diet—like lots of fried chicken—which leads to obesity, which then, in turn, leads to PCOS? So, what we eat maybe is only indirectly related to PCOS, through weight gain? No, because the same link between high AGE levels and PCOS was found in lean women, as well.

“As chronic inflammation and increased [oxidative] stress have been incriminated in the [disease process] of PCOS, the role of AGEs as [pro-]inflammatory and [pro-]oxidant mediators may [indeed] be linked with the metabolic and reproductive abnormalities of the syndrome.” And, further, the buildup of AGE inside polycystic ovaries themselves suggests “a potential role of AGEs” contributing to the disease process itself, beyond just some of the consequences.”

“RAGE [is] highly expressed” in ovarian tissues. In other words, the receptor—that’s the R in RAGE—the receptor in the body for these advanced glycation end products—is concentrated, for some reason, in the ovaries. So, ovaries may be particularly sensitive to their effects. So, AGEs might indeed be contributing “to the cause of polycystic ovary syndrome…and infertility.” So, should we just cut down on meat, cheese, and eggs? Or, we can always come up with AGE absorption-blocking drugs.

We know that “AGEs have been implicated in the development of many” chronic diseases. Specifically, “food-derived AGEs…play an important role;” diet is a major source of these pro-inflammatory AGEs. Indeed, cutting down on these dietary glycotoxins “reduces the inflammatory response.” But, stewed chicken just doesn’t taste as good as fried chicken. So, therefore, you can have your KFC and eat it, too. Just take this drug with it every time you eat, to cut down on the absorption of these toxins. And, it works—it actually lowers AGE blood levels. This oral absorbent drug, AST-120, is just a preparation of activated charcoal. That’s like what you give for drug overdoses, and when people are poisoned. I’m sure if you took some ipecac with your KFC, your levels would go down, too. You know, there’s another way you can reduce your absorption—by reducing your intake in the first place.

Simple, safe, and feasible. The first thing you do is stop smoking. The glycotoxins in cigarette smoke “may contribute to” the increase of heart disease and cancer among smokers.  Then, you can decrease your intake of high-AGE foods, while increasing your intake of foods that may help pull AGEs out of your system, like brown rice and mushrooms. And, we can eat foods high in antioxidants, like berries, herbs, and spices.

“Dietary AGE intake can be…decreased [even just by] changing the method of cooking” from the high temperature dry cooking methods to low heat, higher humidity. In other words, moving away from “broiling, searing, [and frying” to more “stewing, steaming, and boiling.” But, what we eat may be more important than how we cook it. For example, boiled chicken has less than half the glycotoxins of roasted chicken. But, even deep-fried potatoes [have] less than boiled meat. 

We could also eat foods raw, which doesn’t work as well for blood pudding, but we can choose raw nuts and nut butters, which may have 30 times less glycotoxins than roasted. And, we can stay away from high-AGE processed foods, such as puffed, shredded, and flaked breakfast cereals.

Why does it matter? Because study after study has shown that switching someone to a low-AGE diet can lower the inflammation in their bodies. Even just a single high-AGE meal can profoundly impair our artery function within just two hours of consumption. Fried or broiled chicken breast and veggies, compared to steamed or boiled chicken breast and veggies. The same ingredients; just different cooking methods. Now, you’ll notice that even the steamed or boiled chicken meal still impaired arterial function. So, you could certainly choose to eat even healthier, but significantly better than the fried or broiled.

Ironically, “the amount of AGEs administered during this [high-AGE] HAGE intervention,” the profoundly-impair-your-artery-function amount of AGEs, “was similar to the average estimated daily intake by the general population,” the Standard American Diet. That’s why you can decrease inflammation in people, putting them on a low-AGE diet. But, an increase in inflammation was less apparent when people switched from their regular diet to a high-AGE diet, because they’re already eating a high-AGE diet, so many of these glycotoxins in their regular diet.

Do we have evidence that reducing AGE intake actually helps with polycystic ovaries? Yes. Within just two months, baseline diet; switch to a high-AGE diet, to a low-AGE diet, and you see parallel changes in insulin sensitivity, oxidative stress, and hormonal status, with the take home being that those with PCOS may want to try a low-AGE diet, which in the study meant restricting meat to once a week that’s only boiled, poached, stewed or steamed, and cutting out fast food-type foods and soda. What about instead of steamed chicken, we ate no meat at all?

Rather than measuring blood levels, which vary with each meal, like if you just ate some roasted nuts or something, we can measure the level of glycotoxins stuck in your body tissues over time instead, with a fancy gizmo that measures the amount of light your skin gives off, because AGEs are fluorescent. And so, no surprise, this turns out to be a strong predictor of overall mortality. So, the lower the better, and “the one factor…consistently associated with” reduced skin fluorescence, this reduced AGEs coming out of your body, was a vegetarian diet, which suggests that eating more plant-based “may reduce exposure to [these] preformed dietary AGEs,” potentially reducing tissue AGEs, as well as chronic disease risk.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Wordink via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Over the [past] 2 decades there has been increasing evidence supporting an important contribution from food-derived advanced glycation end products (AGEs),” also known as glycotoxins, to “increased oxidative stress and inflammation, processes that play a major role in the causation of chronic diseases”—including, potentially, polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with PCOS tend to have nearly twice the circulating AGE levels in their bloodstream.

Polycystic ovary syndrome may be “the most common [hormonal] abnormality” among young women in the United States, a common cause of infertility, menstrual dysfunction, and excess facial and body hair. Now, “the prevalence of obesity” is also higher in women with PCOS. So, since the highest AGE levels are found in broiled, grilled, fried, and roasted foods of mostly “animal origin,” is it possible that this causal chain starts with a bad diet—like lots of fried chicken—which leads to obesity, which then, in turn, leads to PCOS? So, what we eat maybe is only indirectly related to PCOS, through weight gain? No, because the same link between high AGE levels and PCOS was found in lean women, as well.

“As chronic inflammation and increased [oxidative] stress have been incriminated in the [disease process] of PCOS, the role of AGEs as [pro-]inflammatory and [pro-]oxidant mediators may [indeed] be linked with the metabolic and reproductive abnormalities of the syndrome.” And, further, the buildup of AGE inside polycystic ovaries themselves suggests “a potential role of AGEs” contributing to the disease process itself, beyond just some of the consequences.”

“RAGE [is] highly expressed” in ovarian tissues. In other words, the receptor—that’s the R in RAGE—the receptor in the body for these advanced glycation end products—is concentrated, for some reason, in the ovaries. So, ovaries may be particularly sensitive to their effects. So, AGEs might indeed be contributing “to the cause of polycystic ovary syndrome…and infertility.” So, should we just cut down on meat, cheese, and eggs? Or, we can always come up with AGE absorption-blocking drugs.

We know that “AGEs have been implicated in the development of many” chronic diseases. Specifically, “food-derived AGEs…play an important role;” diet is a major source of these pro-inflammatory AGEs. Indeed, cutting down on these dietary glycotoxins “reduces the inflammatory response.” But, stewed chicken just doesn’t taste as good as fried chicken. So, therefore, you can have your KFC and eat it, too. Just take this drug with it every time you eat, to cut down on the absorption of these toxins. And, it works—it actually lowers AGE blood levels. This oral absorbent drug, AST-120, is just a preparation of activated charcoal. That’s like what you give for drug overdoses, and when people are poisoned. I’m sure if you took some ipecac with your KFC, your levels would go down, too. You know, there’s another way you can reduce your absorption—by reducing your intake in the first place.

Simple, safe, and feasible. The first thing you do is stop smoking. The glycotoxins in cigarette smoke “may contribute to” the increase of heart disease and cancer among smokers.  Then, you can decrease your intake of high-AGE foods, while increasing your intake of foods that may help pull AGEs out of your system, like brown rice and mushrooms. And, we can eat foods high in antioxidants, like berries, herbs, and spices.

“Dietary AGE intake can be…decreased [even just by] changing the method of cooking” from the high temperature dry cooking methods to low heat, higher humidity. In other words, moving away from “broiling, searing, [and frying” to more “stewing, steaming, and boiling.” But, what we eat may be more important than how we cook it. For example, boiled chicken has less than half the glycotoxins of roasted chicken. But, even deep-fried potatoes [have] less than boiled meat. 

We could also eat foods raw, which doesn’t work as well for blood pudding, but we can choose raw nuts and nut butters, which may have 30 times less glycotoxins than roasted. And, we can stay away from high-AGE processed foods, such as puffed, shredded, and flaked breakfast cereals.

Why does it matter? Because study after study has shown that switching someone to a low-AGE diet can lower the inflammation in their bodies. Even just a single high-AGE meal can profoundly impair our artery function within just two hours of consumption. Fried or broiled chicken breast and veggies, compared to steamed or boiled chicken breast and veggies. The same ingredients; just different cooking methods. Now, you’ll notice that even the steamed or boiled chicken meal still impaired arterial function. So, you could certainly choose to eat even healthier, but significantly better than the fried or broiled.

Ironically, “the amount of AGEs administered during this [high-AGE] HAGE intervention,” the profoundly-impair-your-artery-function amount of AGEs, “was similar to the average estimated daily intake by the general population,” the Standard American Diet. That’s why you can decrease inflammation in people, putting them on a low-AGE diet. But, an increase in inflammation was less apparent when people switched from their regular diet to a high-AGE diet, because they’re already eating a high-AGE diet, so many of these glycotoxins in their regular diet.

Do we have evidence that reducing AGE intake actually helps with polycystic ovaries? Yes. Within just two months, baseline diet; switch to a high-AGE diet, to a low-AGE diet, and you see parallel changes in insulin sensitivity, oxidative stress, and hormonal status, with the take home being that those with PCOS may want to try a low-AGE diet, which in the study meant restricting meat to once a week that’s only boiled, poached, stewed or steamed, and cutting out fast food-type foods and soda. What about instead of steamed chicken, we ate no meat at all?

Rather than measuring blood levels, which vary with each meal, like if you just ate some roasted nuts or something, we can measure the level of glycotoxins stuck in your body tissues over time instead, with a fancy gizmo that measures the amount of light your skin gives off, because AGEs are fluorescent. And so, no surprise, this turns out to be a strong predictor of overall mortality. So, the lower the better, and “the one factor…consistently associated with” reduced skin fluorescence, this reduced AGEs coming out of your body, was a vegetarian diet, which suggests that eating more plant-based “may reduce exposure to [these] preformed dietary AGEs,” potentially reducing tissue AGEs, as well as chronic disease risk.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Wordink via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Doctor's Note

I touched on marjoram for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in Benefits of Marjoram for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and on the benefits of spearmint tea for PCOS in Enhancing Athletic Performance with Peppermint. Another sorely under-recognized gynecological issue is endometriosis, which I discuss in How to Treat Endometriosis with Seaweed.

Because of AGEs, I no longer toast nuts or buy roasted nut butters, which is disappointing because I really enjoy those flavors so much more than untoasted and unroasted nuts. But, as Dr. McDougall likes to say, nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. For more on why it’s important to minimize our exposure to these toxic compounds, see:

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