December 20, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome, Milk

I have a condition known as PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome, which results in my hormones being all out of whack.

I'm befuddled as to which would further alter my hormone levels more (and which hormones that would be): cow's milk or soy milk?

I have read that bodybuilders [try to avoid] soy-based protein powders because they increase estrogen [levels], but I have also read reports that the hormones in cow's milk can cause girls to [begin] puberty at a younger age.

Would drinking organic milk be the solution?

-- Rachael (last name unknown)

(city unknown), NJ

Let's first begin by touching upon some nutrition-related specifics regarding PolyCystic Ovary Syndrome (POS).

The hormones found at high levels in affected individuals are a group of male hormones known as androgens.

One interesting theory that has emerged about risk factors for POS (other than being overweight or obese) surrounds the body's inability to use up insulin efficiently.

Since high levels of free-floating insulin building up in the blood can increase the amount of androgens produced, it is believed this could be a factor behind the development of this syndrome.

This is also why POS in itself is a risk factor for Type-2 diabetes.

From a nutritional standpoint, the best recommendation is to lose excess weight, as this often results in more efficient use of insulin by the body and, consequently, lower production of androgens.

The catch-22 is that, for many individuals, it is precisely this hormonal imbalance that can add a degree of difficulty to achieving weight loss.

Consequently, I highly recommend that you speak to a Registered Dietitian (as opposed to picking out a diet plan from a book or magazine, even if it is from a highly reputable source.)

With POS, you need a customized plan based on your individual situation.

It really doesn't make a difference to your condition whether you include dairy or soy milk in your diet, as neither of these have a particular effect on androgen levels.

As for the link between hormones in milk and early puberty -- I don't buy it.

After all, milk consumption has been on a steady decline over the past two decades. It's children's intake of soda -- not milk -- that has skyrocketed since the 1980s!

A much more realistic explanation for the recent trend of earlier puberty initiation? Increasing obesity rates among children.

Highly respected endocrinology journals have published a handful of studies over the past few years -- such as this one -- making interesting physiological connections between high BMI levels and earlier sexual maturation in girls.


Anonymous said...

hi, i too am wondering the benefits of soya milk as studies show reduced sperm count in uk men taking high intakes... could this then increase female hormones? Just to add, i have a BMI of 22, as this lady may also have, so losing weight is not going to make a bit of difference.

Anonymous said...

do you not have an answer then?

Andy Bellatti said...

I do. I stated it in the post: drinking organic (rather than conventional milk) is not a solution for this reader's hormone imbalance.