You may have heard that you should avoid dairy if you have PCOS -but is this really the case?
Note – avoiding certain foods for environmental, ethical or cultural reasons is absolutely fine, but this post is focused on the nutrition. Likewise if you have been diagnosed with an intolerance or allergy, then not all of this advice will apply to you. As always, do reach out to your doctor or healthcare professional if possible before making any dietary changes.e?
There is some evidence from a handful of small studies that low-fat or fat free milk may be associated with certain symptoms and hormonal profile, including acne. This relationship appears to be stronger when combined with high GI carbohydrates according to one systematic review (1). However, this is not necessarily seen in all women with PCOS. Notably, this effect doesn’t seem to translate across to full-fat varieties. This may be because the glycemic index of low fat milk is higher than full fat milk (2).
Conversely, dairy is considered to be a high-quality protein, thanks to having all essential amino acids and being highly bioavailable. Several studies including a systematic review (3) associated diary consumption with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D). T2D is a condition that women with PCOS are at increased risk of due to increased insulin resistance.
There is currently insufficient evidence to suggest that dairy has a negative impact on PCOS symptoms, including ovulation and fertility (4). In fact, there are very few papers investigating the impact of dairy on PCOS, meaning we need much more research to better understand any relationship between the two.
If you suspect you do have an intolerance to dairy or suspect that it may be linked to acne, then you may wish to speak to a nutrition professional or trial removing it for 2-3 weeks and then reintroducing it slowly to monitor symptoms. Dairy is a source of calcium, vitamin D, protein and fat (if not low/zero fat). Including sources of protein as part of a well-balanced diet is one of the key recommendations for PCOS management, and dairy can be a useful source of this. If you don’t have dairy, make sure you include alternative sources, such as fortified alternative milk and yoghurt. If you do include it, you may wish to opt for moderate portions of full-fat varieties to support blood glucose levels and reduce risk of symptoms.
Choosing whether to have dairy, and if so how much and what kinds, is a personal choice. Remember, there is no single perfect diet for PCOS, so find what works for you. Need support? Book in a free 15 minute discovery call to learn how to feel empowered to choose foods for your PCOS, not afraid or restricted.
Want to learn more about PCOS? Read more posts here.