Soy (isoflavones) might just be the solution to all your polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) related worries. Researchers from Kashan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Iran, have given new hope to the women facing problems of hormonal disorder, such as infertility, diabetes and heart diseases, according to a new study.

Iranian researchers carried out a small controlled trial in 70 women with the disorder, out of whom 35 were given 50 mg/d soy isoflavone supplement containing 37.5 mg genistein, 10 mg daidzein, and 2.5 mg glycitein, daily for a period of three weeks. All 35 women showed significant improvement in insulin resistance, hormonal status, triglycerides, and biomarkers of oxidative stress by the end of the study period. Rest of the participants received a placebo treatment.

In addition to soy-based intervention, participants maintained a physically active lifestyle excluding all other nutritional supplements in any form. The complete information regarding diet and blood samples of the participants was also analyzed. The study was recently published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Zatollah Asemi, who is the study’s first author, and a PhD, endorsed the beneficial properties of soy isoflavone in a press release by saying: “In the first study to examine the connection, we found women who consumed soy isoflavones regularly saw improvement in biological markers that reflect how effectively the body utilizes insulin to process sugars and had reduced levels of harmful cholesterol.”

What Is PCOS?

If you are one in every five women who experiences irregular periods, weight gain, oily skin, acne, hair loss, excessive facial and body hair or difficulty getting pregnant, then you most probably have PCOS.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, generally referred as PCOS, is one of the major health problems that affect hormonal health of millions of women around the globe. According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, most of the women develop PCOS in their late teenage years or in early 20s.

Most of the times the exact cause or triggers of PCOS are not pinpointed but three main underlying features of this condition are: irregular periods, meaning that ovaries are inefficient in doing their job — ovulation; hormonal imbalances occur due to the excess of the male hormones such as androgens in the body; you could get polycystic ovaries in which ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs (follicles) which surround the eggs. Despite having PCOS, it does not necessarily mean that you are infertile, according to NHS. With proper diet and regular physical exercise, majority of the symptoms can be combated.

According to NHS, UK, although the medical treatment for women having fertility issues in PCOS are available, they also need high potency medicine support or a surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) that involves heat or a laser to destroy the androgen producing tissue in the ovaries.

PCOS-Treatment: Natural vs Pharmaceutical or Surgical?

Soy and soy-based foods are rich in natural plant based phytoestrogens that can mimic the activity of natural female hormone estrogen found in women’s bodies. Soy products are not just good for PCOS but according to a review published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, soy and soy isoflavones are effective in preventing the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis and hypothyroidism.

Scientific evidences from the previous researches suggest that women having PCOS are more prone to developing diabetes and cardiac diseases. A study published in the journal Diabetic Medicine directed that PCOS is an indicatory factor for diabetes and heart diseases. It has also been suggested that women with PCOS should also get proper testing, preferably 2-hour glucose tolerance test and a fasting lipid profile, done to make important lifestyle changes to minimize the detrimental long term effects.

The same researchers also carried out a study that checked the effects of soy intake on metabolic profiles of women with gestational diabetes mellitus and found out that soy proteins can significantly improve the glucose homeostasis parameters, triglycerides and biomarkers of oxidative stress, as well as reduce the incidence of newborn hyperbilirubinemia and hospitalization cases. The results of the trial were published in the journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2015.

Therefore, it is evident that limiting unhealthy and processed food choices and maintaining a healthy weight by eating isoflavones-rich foods, fruits and vegetables and exercise are vital to fight off the risks associated with PCOS and the complementary metabolic disorder.