Supplements to Improve Insulin Resistance in PCOS

Here’s how to improve insulin resistance in PCOS.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder characterized by hormonal imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles, and the development of small “cysts” or follicles on the ovaries. One significant aspect of PCOS that is not  part of the diagnostic criteria is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin. Insulin resistance not only exacerbates the symptoms of PCOS but can also lead to more severe health issues if left untreated. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of insulin resistance in people with PCOS, explore the potential consequences of leaving it untreated, and discuss how certain supplements, when combined with a healthy lifestyle, can offer valuable support.

Understanding Insulin Resistance in PCOS

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels. In people with PCOS, insulin resistance occurs when the cells in their body fail to respond effectively to insulin. As a result, the pancreas produces more insulin to compensate for this resistance. It is believed that people with PCOS have an intrinsic insulin resistance unlike that of other conditions.

You can watch me explain this mechanism more in this in depth video

Elevated insulin levels contribute to the increased production of androgens (male hormones), leading to the characteristic symptoms of PCOS, such as irregular periods, acne, and the formation of ovarian follicles commonly referred to as “cysts”.

A key role of insulin is acting as an appetite stimulant, which is why you may crave carbohydrates more (like all the time!) if you have insulin resistance and PCOS. Insulin also promotes weight gain which is also why many people with PCOS struggle with weight gain and struggles to lose weight.

On top of all this, high insulin levels can contribute to increasing inflammation in PCOS which can also make symptoms worse. PCOS sure is the gift that keeps on giving!

The Link Between Insulin Resistance and PCOS

Insulin resistance and PCOS are closely intertwined. The hormonal imbalances caused by PCOS contribute to insulin resistance, while insulin resistance exacerbates the symptoms of PCOS. This creates a vicious cycle that can be challenging to break without intervention. If left untreated, insulin resistance in PCOS can have far-reaching consequences on a person’s health.

Untreated Insulin Resistance: Consequences for people with PCOS

  1. Type 2 Diabetes: Prolonged insulin resistance significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The persistent elevation of blood sugar levels can make it harder for the pancreas to maintain optimal insulin levels.
  2. Cardiovascular Complications: Insulin resistance in PCOS is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol. Elevated insulin levels contribute to the accumulation of fats in the arterial walls, raising the likelihood of heart-related complications.
  3. Infertility Issues: Insulin resistance can further complicate fertility issues for women with PCOS. The disruption in the delicate hormonal balance hinders ovulation, reducing the chances of successful conception.

The Role of Supplements in Improving Insulin Resistance In PCOS

While lifestyle modifications, including food choices to balance blood sugar better and regular exercise form the foundation of managing insulin resistance in PCOS, supplements can offer additional support. Several studies, including meta-analyses and systematic reviews, have explored the efficacy of certain supplements in improving insulin sensitivity and managing PCOS symptoms. Here are our top four supplements for improving insulin resistance in PCOS.

Berberine

Berberine has gotten a lot of attention recently as a natural insulin sensitizer for PCOS. Berberine is an herb that has been used for thousands of years as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.

A meta-analysis of 9 studies revealed that berberine supplementation significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels and improved insulin resistance in women with PCOS, similarly to metformin. The study suggested that berberine works by enhancing insulin receptor expression, promoting glucose uptake, and reducing inflammation.

READ10 Benefits of Berberine for PCOS

CoEnzyme Q10

CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring antioxidant that plays a crucial role in energy production. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Nutrition (2020) highlighted the potential benefits of CoQ10 supplementation in improving insulin sensitivity. The study suggested that CoQ10’s antioxidant properties may contribute to reducing oxidative stress, a factor implicated in insulin resistance.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that supplementing with coenzyme Q10 for 8 weeks had beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin levels, as well as total testosterone levels in women with PCOS.

Inositol

Inositol, particularly myo-inositol, is a compound that has shown great promise in improving insulin resistance in women with PCOS.

A review of 20 randomized controlled trials showed that inositol supplementation is effective for  decreases in blood glucose through an improvement in insulin sensitivity that is independent of weight.

Inositol is believed to enhance insulin signaling, regulate ovarian function, and improve metabolic parameters in people with PCOS. A meta-analysis of 26 randomized controlled trials showed that inositol significantly reduced fasting plasma glucose compared to placebo and similarly to that of metformin.

READ Inositol Or Metformin for PCOS: What The Evidence Shows

Curcumin

Curcumin, a component of turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. This popular spice has also been shown to help improve glucose and insulin levels in PCOS.

A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) found that curcumin supplementation improved glucose parameters among women with PCOS. A Meta-analysis of five randomized studies (296 participants) showed that curcumin supplementation alone or in combination with metformin significantly reduced fasting glucose levels, insulin levels.

3 Major Benefits of Curcumin for PCOS

supplements for insulin resistance in pcos

Insulin resistance in women with PCOS is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach for effective management. While lifestyle modifications remain paramount, supplements such as berberine, CoEnzyme Q10, inositol, and curcumin can offer valuable support in improving insulin resistance in PCOS and addressing the underlying hormonal imbalances. It’s crucial for people to consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating supplements into their routine to ensure personalized and safe management of their condition. By combining these supplements with a healthy lifestyle, women with PCOS can take proactive steps towards improving insulin resistance and promoting overall well-being.

pcos dietitian angela grassiAngela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN is the founder of The PCOS Nutrition Center where she provides evidence-based nutrition information and coaching to women with PCOS. Angela is the author of several books on PCOS including PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health, and The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook Recognized by Today’s Dietitian as one of the Top 10 Incredible Dietitian’s making a difference in 2014, Angela is the past recipient for The Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award, The Award in Excellence in Practice in Women’s Health and The Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having PCOS herself, Angela has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and research of the syndrome.

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