Tag Archives: news

Gestational Diabetes: New(ish) research

2 May

I just read some interesting research about gestational diabetes–the 2009 Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO) Study has provided compelling evidence that we should be using a lower cutoff point for diagnosing GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus). If you’ve ever had a baby and had standard prenatal care, you probably took the test for gestational diabetes (gross sugary drink, then a blood draw to see how your body processed it).

The study found that even women with “intermediate” results on the test (those whose results were not “positive” for GDM but were higher than average) had more adverse outcomes in pregnancy, including higher risk of c-section. This suggests that dietary changes or other treatments might be helpful for women whose results fall into that category.

For a good synopsis of this, see Jennie Brand-Muller’s blog post on the subject. (Brand-Muller is the author of The Low-GI Diet Revolution.)


omega-3 oils: new research

8 Feb

So, studies have shown that most supplements are…well…pointless. But the research I’ve been seeing about omega-3 supplements has been very promising. Some of the recent studies on this supplement have demonstrated that it is very effective as a treatment for depression. This recent article argues that major depressive disorder is linked to a low omega-3 index (that is, having too few omega-3s in the body).

PCOS patients may also find this recent study of interest. It showed a drop in bioavailable, or “free,” testosterone in women who took an omega-3 supplement. Since testosterone–especially the “free” testosterone–causes hirsutism, acne, and hair loss, this is an important discovery for PCOS sufferers.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a big deal in recent nutritional and medical research, are found in fish and other marine life. (They’re also found in flaxseed, but as I understand it, it’s harder for your body to use them in the form found in flaxseed, so that is less preferred.) You can certainly increase your intake by eating more fish, but especially considering the concern about getting too much mercury, you may want to consider a supplement. (It’s also really difficult to get the higher dose that is recommended from food alone.)

Here’s how it works: you need both omega-3 and omega-6 oils. The standard American diet, however, contains FAR more omega-6 than you need, and much less omega-3. The ratio of the two in Western diets is often 10-1 in favor of omega-6; in fact, sometimes it is as high as 30-1. The optimal ratio, scientists think, is somewhere closer to 4-1. That means you need MORE omega-3, but less omega-6. In part, this disrupted ratio is due to the predominance of soybean, sunflower, corn, and canola oils in our diets–all of these oils are high in omega-6.

On an episode of the Kojo Nnamdi show on NPR, an expert recommended a fairly high dose of omega-3s per day. (The show, by the way, is worth a listen if you are interested in the effects of omega-3s on depression.) The consensus seems to be that you should get at least a gram–possible 2 or 3 grams–of omega-3 per day. Don’t be confused by the dosage of “fish oil” on the bottle; it should also list the dosage of “omega-3.” This will probably be divided into DHA and EPA.

It’s also important to get a high-quality supplement, to avoid possible mercury contamination. The bottle should say “molecularly distilled.” You don’t have to pay a fortune to get that, though. I get mine at Costco. If you try omega-3s and see a difference in your mood or PCOS symptoms, please report back! I’d love to hear your results.

interesting notion: obesogens

11 Aug

A couple of different news items lately have referred to the same class of chemicals, which some scientists are terming “obesogens.” I am not convinced by this line of argument (at least not yet), but it is an interesting one: some researchers are hypothesizing that a large part of the obesity epidemic is not based on calories or nutrients but on the fact that people are consuming and being exposed to large amounts of chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system (called, by some, “obesogens”).

The argument, essentially, is that modern life exposes people to far more plastics, synthetic hormones and antibiotics in our food, pesticides, etc., than we were exposed to in the past, and that these substances can contribute to obesity by messing with our hormones. Again, I’m not sure how much I believe this; after all, a diet of highly-processed foods has a lot of calories with little fiber and fewer-than-optimal nutrients, which seems to me to be explanation enough for the spread of obesity.

However, since some of the ways you can minimize your contact with these chemicals are the same things that might be helpful in other ways–and because they can’t do any harm–you might consider taking the steps that these researchers suggest: using glass or stainless steel to store food instead of plastic; buying local, preferably organic, produce and meat.

I would add, as well, that cooking real food–instead of things that are processed and prepared–can’t hurt, because there is less likelihood that a potato contains these industrial pollutants than there is that a potato chip contains them–if nothing else, because a potato doesn’t usually come in a plastic or foil package. But there’s no guarantee, and you’re still going to be breathing the air, taking medications that might contain some of these contaminants, etc. So my feeling on the matter is, you’re still going to need to watch your diet and exercise plan, not just switch to Pyrex containers.

Here’s a link to one of the stories.

Metformin for low milk supply in PCOS mothers

3 Jul

Lisa Marasco–the ICBLC who is possibly the first researcher to examine the role of PCOS in low milk supply–has found evidence that Metformin can help with low milk supply in mothers with PCOS. The La Leche League has an excellent article by Marasco available on their web site (Marasco is an LLLI leader, as well as a lactation consultant).

Marasco suggests that anecdotal evidence shows a boost in milk production for low-supply moms with PCOS. She acknowledges that large-scale studies and high-quality research on this do not yet exist; however, in the absence of other good options, it may be worth trying. Marasco advocates using Metformin throughout the pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

Thomas Hale, the leading authority on the safety of drugs in breastfeeding mothers, has studied Metformin and concluded that it is quite safe. His assessment can be found here (warning: it’s pretty technical). Essentially, Hale found that the levels of Metformin in breastmilk were low, and that no adverse effects on the infants were reported.

He does point out, however, that “since metformin is largely excreted via the kidneys, particular caution should be exercised where the infant renal function is low or compromised (e.g. in premature neonates, or in rare cases of renal failure).” This doesn’t mean that no breastfeeding mother of a preemie should take Metformin; rather, it means that your doctor should consult with your child’s pediatrician and make the decision carefully. Since breastfeeding is beneficial, especially for premature babies, being able to produce more milk may benefit the infant enough to be worth the risk. Kidney function should be carefully monitored, though.

You may also be interested in this study, which examined infants whose mothers took Metformin over the course of their first six months of life. No differences in development or illnesses were found.

Finally, this page from Kellymom has a good list of links about PCOS and breastfeeding, including links to info about Metformin. (How much do I love Kellymom? A whole lot, that’s how much.)

Ultimately, my feeling on this matter is that it’s worth a shot. Metformin, which is a first-line treatment for PCOS, has a lot of benefits for PCOS sufferers; it can improve regularity of cycles and reduce other symptoms. I find it plausible that Met might make some differences to the hormonal balance that promote milk supply. Of course, not all patients find Metformin easy to tolerate; it often has significant GI side effects. Talk to your doctor about prescribing you the name brand (Glucophage) if that is true for you and adjusting your diet doesn’t help. Some PCOS ladies have reported that the generic has more side effects for them than the name brand.

That said, I took Met before I got pregnant with my son (and for the first trimester), and I had almost zero side effects. It regulated my cycle almost immediately and I conceived my son in the second month of trying. As a result, I’m a believer in Met’s ability to affect hormones for the better, which means that if I were going to have more children, I’d be taking it throughout the pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

new news about Avandia and heart disease

28 Jun

I know, I owe you a post about anxiety–but this is of interest for PCOS sufferers too! Avandia, one of the insulin-sensitizing agents often used for diabetics or insulin resistant patients, has been linked to heart problems and strokes.

Two teams of researchers found different results about the drug, but both studies found an increased risk of heart attack.  Steven Nissen, researcher in charge of one of the studies, argues that the drug should be taken off the market.

There are other medication options in this class that have not displayed the same problem–Metformin, which is most commonly prescribed, and Actos.

Read more here!

more on Vitamin D

14 May

More information about Vitamin D–this time, a new study’s info about possible dangers of supplementation.

Conflicting information? Maybe. Overall, however, it seems to me that the message is, we don’t know! While some PCOS sufferers seem to have gotten good results from vitamin D supplementation, it’s definitely something to discuss with your doctor. Getting your levels tested is probably a good idea, too.

health care reform: good news for you!

25 Mar

This is, obviously, not a political blog, but it is worth noting that the new provisions about pre-existing conditions will benefit many of us with PCOS! Not only will it prevent insurance companies from overcharging or denying benefits because of PCOS itself, but also because of the different problems that can co-exist or arise from it [such as depression, infertility, etc.]. So, celebrate–this is great news!