British Journal of Nutrition

Review article

The optimal diet for women with polycystic ovary syndrome?

Kate Marsha1 c1 and Jennie Brand-Millera1

a1 Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, University of Sydney, NSW Australia 2006


An optimal diet is one that not only prevents nutrient deficiencies by providing sufficient nutrients and energy for human growth and reproduction, but that also promotes health and longevity and reduces the risk of diet-related chronic diseases. The composition of the optimal diet for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is not yet known, but such a diet must not only assist short term with weight management, symptoms and fertility, but also specifically target the long-term risks of type 2 diabetes, CVD and certain cancers. With insulin resistance and compensatory hyperinsulinaemia now recognised as a key factor in the pathogenesis of PCOS, it has become clear that reducing insulin levels and improving insulin sensitivity are an essential part of management. Diet plays a significant role in the regulation of blood glucose and insulin levels, yet research into the dietary management of PCOS is lacking and most studies have focused on energy restriction rather than dietary composition per se. On the balance of evidence to date, a diet low in saturated fat and high in fibre from predominantly low-glycaemic-index-carbohydrate foods is recommended. Because PCOS carries significant metabolic risks, more research is clearly needed.

(Received May 31 2004)

(Revised February 17 2005)

(Accepted February 23 2005)


c1 * Corresponding author: Kate Marsh, fax +61 2 9415 1446, email