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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

PCOS Insulin Resistance Connection

Before I begin this article, it is clear that insulin resistance is best treated with a low carbohydrate diet, as it does an end-run on the insulin that is the culprit in this distressing syndrome. It is not a disease; however, it can lead to disease, and should therefore be addressed aggressively.

Recently I’ve developed an interest in PCOS because an acquaintance’s young daughter has it. In some people when they are young and in their teens, it manifests in a number of annoying symptoms, such as acne, irregular periods, weight gain and excessive hair growth on face, arms and legs, with perhaps thinning scalp hair. Not everyone has all these symptoms, but the root cause of PCOS is the same – insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance occurs when through unhealthy overeating of refined carbohydrates the pancreas starts producing too much insulin. Cells that become overwhelmed greatly reduce the number of insulin receptor sites. For instance, a healthy person can have 20,000 insulin receptor sites per cell, whereas someone with PCOS can have as few as 5,000. The insulin which normally attaches to the cell walls and acts like the key in a lock to allow the glucose in through the cell wall to be converted into energy is now rejected and floats freely in the blood stream, creating unbalanced hormone levels in PCOS sufferers, low blood sugar episodes (hypoglycemia) and later this could manifest in diabetes which is the end result of hyperinsulinemia leading to hyperglycemia when the pancreas cannot keep up anymore. Excess insulin also stimulates the ovaries to produce large amounts of testosterone, which may prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg each month, leading to infertility.

PCOS can also place one at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and uterine cancer. Although this news is frightening, it also carries a message of hope: Lowering insulin levels will almost certainly reduce future disease risk and alleviate many existing problems.

On the bright side, a few prominent specialists in the field are beginning to embrace a low carb diet approach for PCOS and they are seeing significant improvements in their patients, with many of them resuming normal monthly cycles and being able to fall pregnant. It also creates a greater sensitivity to prescribed medication.

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