Becoming a Critical Reader of Nutrition Information for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder among women of reproductive age (more common than diabetes) yet so many women find themselves confused by the nutrition recommendations for the syndrome and don't know who to trust. Sometimes it seems as if every website out there for PCOS has conflicting nutrition information. Every doctor has a different opinion; every woman with the syndrome has their own views on what works or not and shares with others through social media outlets. Some individuals even try and make money off their unproven "theories" and try and sell products women with PCOS don't need.
As registered dietitians, sometimes we spend time in our nutrition counseling sessions for PCOS dispelling misinformation about diet for the syndrome and setting the record straight. These myths could be perceptions the client has acquired from health care providers, women with the syndrome themselves, family members or in most cases, the Internet. There's no question that media and Internet are the main sources where people get their nutrition information today. Unfortunately a lot of the information for PCOS is false and misleading and in some cases, dangerous.
There could be several explanations for the conflicting diet and nutrition information for PCOS. Such as:
Lacking Formal Diagnostic Criteria. PCOS still doesn't have a formal diagnostic criteria like we do for other medical conditions. This has resulted in many women getting misdiagnosed and becoming not very trustworthy of the medical community and thus seek alternative treatments.
Optimal Diet for PCOS. The optimal diet for PCOS still isn't totally clear (although the majority of research shows that the best diet for PCOS is a low glycemic index diet). The connection with insulin was only made in the mid-1990s after all so we still have a lot of catching up to do.
Variable symptoms. While women with PCOS have similar characteristics, every woman's body is different. Some may have horrific acne while some may not have acne at all; some women experience regular periods some never see a period. Having PCOS means treating the symptoms (like balding) in addition to the whole body (lowering insulin and preventing diabetes). Some treatments work for some and not for others.
If you are a woman with PCOS, it is important that you are doing the right thing for your body, and not making your health worse. Some information on the Internet is false, misleading and dangerous. You need to be a critical reader of the nutrition information you are flooded with before making changes to your health.
Below are some ways to trust if the information is reliable.
Check the source. Find out the authors credentials. While anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and give nutrition advise, only registered dietitians (RD) have the highest quality training (much more than nurses or physicians) on diet and nutrition. RDs are trained to give reliable and objective nutrition information. A lot of times articles online are written by writers who get their nutrition information from other websites whose information may or may not be accurate.
It's also important to see the location of the information and what web page it's being presented from. Is the site trying to sell you a product? If so, could they be bias with their information?
What's the research? Make sure the source has sufficient information to back up their claim. For example, Shelia, a client with PCOS read on one website that fruit should only be eaten on an empty stomach. Why? Where is the research behind this statement? This is false information. Fruit can be eaten at any time of the day. Sometimes you may find yourself doing your own research to check the facts. Pubmed is a great place to start to look up reliable studies.
How sufficient is the research? Another factor to consider is the research itself. One research report with its findings, just because its research doesn't mean much. It's important to look at the sample size, duration, and study design (blind is best) of the research and see if there has been research suggesting similar findings.
When becoming a critical reader of nutrition information for PCOS here are some final key points to remember:
Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's accurate
Check the author's credentials, source and the references to back up claims
Do your own research or seek the advice of a registered dietitian before making any changes to your health