Relation of nutrients and hormones in polycystic ovary syndrome

Siddika E Karakas, Wendy M. Cunningham, Alex Tsodikov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Insulin resistance, infertility, and hirsutism, common characteristics of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), improve with even modest weight loss. Optimal dietary treatment for PCOS is not known. Objective: We compared the effects of acute protein administration with those of glucose challenges on hormones related to obesity and insulin resistance (ie, cortisol and insulin), hirsutism [ie, dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione], and hunger (ie, ghrelin). Design: Patients with PCOS (n = 28; aged 26 ± 2 y) were tested with a 5-h oral-glucose-tolerance test (OGTT) and a euvolemic, euenergetic protein challenge. Results: Glucose ingestion caused larger fluctuations in blood glucose and more hyperinsulinemia than did protein (P < 0.01, overall treatment-by-time interaction). During the protein challenge, cortisol and DHEA declined over 5 h. During OGTT, cortisol and DHEA increased after the third hour and began to show significant divergence from protein from the fourth hour (P ≤ 0.01). During OGTT, 18 patients who had a blood glucose nadir of <69 mg/dL had elevated cortisol (baseline: 10.4 ± 0.4; nadir: 5.9 ± 0.1; peak: 12.7 ± 0.9 μg/dL) and DHEA (baseline: 15.6 ± 1.3; nadir: 11.2 ± 1.0; peak: 24.6 ± 1.6 ng/mL) (P < 0.01), whereas the remaining 10 patients with a glucose nadir of 76 ± 2 mg/dL had no increase in adrenal steroids. Both glucose and protein suppressed ghrelin (from 935 ± 57 to 777 ± 51 pg/mL and from 948 ± 60 to 816 ± 61 pg/mL, respectively). After glucose ingestion, ghrelin returned to baseline by 4 h and increased to 1094 ± 135 pg/mL at 5 h. After the protein challenge, ghrelin remained below the baseline (872 ± 60 pg/mL) even at 5 h. The overall treatment effect was highly significant (P < 0.0001). Conclusions: Glucose ingestion caused significantly more hyperinsulinemia than did protein, and it stimulated cortisol and DHEA. Protein intake suppressed ghrelin significantly longer than did glucose, which suggested a prolonged satietogenic effect. These findings provide mechanistic support for increasing protein intake and restricting the simple sugar intake in a PCOS diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-694
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007


  • Adrenal steroids
  • Ghrelin
  • PCOS
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Whey protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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