Omega-3 + PCOS

This article was written by my previous Nutrition Grad Student, Kimmie Singh. She is a fat woman of color who experiences PCOS. You can find out more information about her work now as a dietitian here.

PCOS and Omega-3 research is exciting stuff. Before we get to the meat of the research, here’s a quick breakdown on essential fatty acids basics.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the two essential fats. This means that your body cannot make this type of fat, and you must get it from your food. 

Our bodies prefer a certain ratio of these two fats. Changes in the Western food system have made omega-3 fatty acids less available. One reason: animals fed with soy and corn yield meat that is high in omega-6 fatty acids. Grass-fed animals, on the other hand, yield meat that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids.

Why did they change how animals are fed? Feeding animals soy and corn makes it easier to produce meat at a quicker rate and lower cost. I like to think of it as quality versus quantity of meat.

Some theorize that people with PCOS are more sensitive to this change in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

This research is still emerging, so that means there isn’t a clear understanding of exactly how this ratio influences PCOS. We do know a part of Omega-3, DHA, plays a role in repairing the damage from chronic inflammation.

People with PCOS can adjust their omega-3 intake through food and supplements to adjust the ratio.

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Some researchers suggest omega-3 fatty acid supplementation normalizes sex hormones (like testosterone), cholesterol, menstrual irregularities, blood sugar, and improves insulin sensitivity.

Have you ever connected your depression or anxiety with your PCOS? 

People with PCOS are more likely to struggle with depression. Numerous new studies find consuming omega-3 fatty acids may have a key role in the reducing it.

If you are interested in omega-3 fatty acid supplements, I recommend that you choose a brand that is third-party tested. Julie recommends the following brands: Nordic Naturals, Nature Made, and Kirkland.

Further, experiment with these foods that are omega-3 fatty acid-rich:

  • Olive and canola oils
  • Chia seeds and flaxseeds (I love adding these to my yogurt)
  • Fish like barramundi, trout, tuna, mackerel, salmon  and sardines.

Want to explore more non diet options to help manage your PCOS, promote health AND healing?

Click here for details on Julie’s PCOS and Food Peace course.

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Resources

Bird, J. K., & McBurney, M. (2016). Seafood Intake of Americans and Meeting Omega-3 Consumption Recommendations. The FASEB Journal, 30(1).

Fesharaki, S., Khani, B., & Mardanian, F. (2017). Omega-3 supplementation effects on polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms and metabolic syndrome. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 22(1), 64. doi:10.4103/jrms.jrms_644_16

Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/

Nadjarzadeh, A., Firouzabadi, R. D., Vaziri, N., Daneshbodi, H., Lotfi, M. H., & Mozaffari-Khosravi, H. (2013). The effect of omega-3 supplementation on androgen profile and menstrual status in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized clinical trial. Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine,11(8), 665-672.

Phelan, N., Oconnor, A., Tun, T. K., Correia, N., Boran, G., Roche, H. M., & Gibney, J. (2011). Hormonal and metabolic effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(3), 652-662. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.005538

Toward a Healthy Sustainable Food System. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2014/07/29/12/34/toward-a-healthy-sustainable-food-system

Zaree, M., Shahnazi, V., Darabi, M., Mehrzad-Sadaghiani, M., Darabi, M., Khani, S., & Nouri, M. (2015). Expression Levels of PPARγ and CYP-19 in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Primary Granulosa Cells: Influence of ω-3 Fatty Acid. International Journal of Fertility and Sterility, 9(2), 197-204. doi:10.22074/ijfs.2015.4240

Food Experiment: Chia Seeds

I love trying new foods and dietitian job perks include being able to learn about new nosh-able foods. I am on the look out for high omega 3 foods to suggest to my clients affected by PCOS. Adding more omega 3s can help decrease inflammation and help heal the source of PCOS. As a strict rule, I only recommend foods I have tried AND taste good. Now you know why I don’t suggest kale.

Everything I used in this experiment.
Everything I used in this experiment.

I have heard about chia seeds for decades. First, as the perfect Christmas gift (Ch-Ch-Chia!). A few years back I noticed them instead sprinkled on salads or added to restaurant chicken breading. I can’t say I liked them though because I didn’t experience them…I couldn’t really taste them. They were just kind of there and annoyed me later when flossing my teeth.

I recently learned about soaking the chia seeds to make a tapioca pudding like consistency. I was intrigued and decided that was going to be my food experiment this week. Here’s what I did:

1/4 cup chia seeds mixed with 1 cup milk

I stirred it and placed in the fridge. I am not known for my patience and checked about 5 minutes later. I noticed it needed a good stirring again to help the chia seeds STAY PUT and not settle.

After about an hour I checked and what a difference! The mixture was now more like a lumpy gel. I appreciate this doesn’t sound too appealing yet when I tried it, I found it to be pleasant. It was a warm spring day, warmest one yet, and the cool texture was comfortable.

The chia seeds were completely neutral tasting and I knew in order to enjoy this food I needed to add something. I wanted blueberries yet when I reached in the fridge I realize we had nada a blueberry. Darn kids and their blueberry obsession! I had to settle on strawberries. I sliced them up and drizzled a bit of honey and stirred them into the chia pudding.

Chia Seeds: let me know if your experiment is favorable or not.
Chia Seeds: let me know if your experiment is favorable or not.

My taste rating: Yum! If you enjoy yogurt or cottage cheese, this would be a fun alternative. Chia seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, omega 3s, iron and calcium.

My satiety rating: Quenched and energized. I noticed about 15 minutes after eating the above mixture the food felt very satisfying in my stomach. I was more awake and energized. I will try them again to see if have this experience every time.

Future Experiments: Soaked chia seeds can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for about a week. You could throw this mixture in a smoothie or add granola with the fruit. After this experiment, I made a mental note to have more soaked chia seeds during those hot summer months when I have to part the humidity as I walk. Will be refreshing and energizing while I am trying to tolerate the summer heat. Watch out, I get grumpy!