Health Benefits Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet For PCOS

Learn how incorporating anti-inflammatory foods can help PCOS.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex and frustrating condition. Part of the underlying mechanism driving the hormone imbalance seen in women with PCOS is due to inflammation. Regardless of weight, women with PCOS have been shown to have higher levels of inflammatory markers such as increases in C-reactive protein (CRP), pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, white blood cell count, oxidative stress, and various markers of endothelial inflammation. Higher levels of inflammation encourage excess androgen production as well as insulin resistance, contributing to weight gain and an imbalance of sex hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.

Numerous studies have examined the effects various diet compositions in women with PCOS. Diets have included low glycemic index, low carb, high protein, and low calorie. A small systematic review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that there wasn’t much differences between these diets and that it was weight loss that improved PCOS. But none of the studies looked at the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet in women with PCOS. Until now.

In a study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, women with PCOS followed a Mediterranean style anti-inflammatory diet for 3 months. This diet was designed to be low calorie, low-fat, low-saturated fat, low glycemic index and moderate-to-high fiber.

The diet composition was 50% carbohydrates 25% proteins, and 25% fat. Anti-inflammatory foods that were emphasized include fatty fish (2x/week), legumes, nuts, olive oil, herbs, spices, and green tea. Processed meat and poultry, as well as added sugars were limited.

The results of this anti-inflammatory diet were very encouraging! Women with PCOS lost 7% of their body weight, 6.6% loss in waist circumference, and 9.2% loss of body fat and a 21.7% reduction in visceral fat.

Significant improvements in their cholesterol and inflammatory markers were found. Total Cholesterol decreased by 9%, TG decreased 18%, and LDL 10.6%. CRP levels decreased by 35%.

A big surprise: Sixty-three percent of women regained menstrual regularity and 12% conceived following this type of anti-inflammatory diet.


pcos cookbookReady to try it for yourself? Our cookbook, The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes incorporates the properties of the anti-inflammatory diet used in the study. Best of all, we put all the recipes together to create a 4-week meal plan and shopping list to take the guesswork out of eating healthy.

Amany Alsayed Salama, Ezzat Khamis Amine, Hesham Abd Elfattah Salem, and Nesrin Kamal Abd El Fattah. Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Combo in Overweight and Obese Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. N Am J Med Sci. 2015 Jul; 7(7): 310–316.

González F. Inflammation in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: underpinning of insulin resistance and ovarian dysfunction. Steroids. 2012 Mar 10; 77(4):300-5.


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Comments (5)
  • Odalys

    March 6, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Definitely eating high protein and low carb meals, in addition to exercise, have helped me manage my symptoms better than medication.

  • A.Z.

    June 14, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I was told that women with our condition should have a low-carb diet, but 50% is quite a bit! I believe I am confused about what foods carbohydrates are consisted of. I’m just trying to find the right direction. I’ve been diagnosed for a few years now, but no one ever told me how important diet was, so now I”m trying to figure out just what the heck I should be putting in my body!

  • Angela Grassi

    June 16, 2016 at 10:29 am

    The ideal diet for PCOS is not known and could really just be an individualized approach. Not all women with PCOS will need up to 50% of their calories coming from carbohydrate sources (fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, beans and legumes and whole grains), but plenty of good studies show that even eating 50% of the calories from carbs do offer numerous benefits to women with PCOS. If you’re looking for whole food recipes for PCOS, check out our cookbook: The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook: 100 Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Beat PCOS:

  • Lou Johanek

    February 16, 2017 at 9:38 am

    67 yrs old, didn’t get pcos diagnosis until 2 yrs ago. Hypo thyroid since 40 yrs. thyroid dx ( lo metabolism,hursitism, wt gain, body aches, hyperliidemia) covered up dx until I got labs drawn for excess loss of scalp hair. DHEA & testosterone high for being post-menopausal. Endocrin doc’s I’ve seen not much help with pcos. Live in suburb of Chicago.. N Western Univ only doing pcos research on 18-50 yr females. Left message anyhow but no answer. I need help, but can’t find anyone dealing with pcos specifically as focus to help me. Any suggestions? Very down & frustrated!

  • Angela Grassi

    February 16, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Lou, are you looking for a doctor in your area? Most reproductive endocrinologists specialize in PCOS. You can find one at We do provide nutrition counseling via phone or online if you are interested.

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