So many of us rely on caffeine for that extra boost throughout the day. But with some conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), people often have to think twice before they consume certain things.
So, is caffeine a problem or not?
According to Fertility Family, there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there when it comes to PCOS and caffeine. On one side, it’s been suggested it could aid with weight loss and in turn help manage PCOS symptoms. But then it’s also been suggested that high caffeine levels could worsen symptoms.
PCOS is related to high hormone levels in the body, which includes high levels of insulin. You might assume that caffeine consumption is bad for people with PCOS, but a dietician specialising in this area, Jodie Relf, explains why this isn’t necessarily the case.
“While early research showed a negative link between caffeine and insulin, recent studies suggest that the unique blend of polyphenols and caffeine in coffee could actually support metabolic balance in women with PCOS,” says Relf, who is a spokesperson for supplement company MyOva.
How does caffeine impact people with PCOS?
Women with PCOS tend to have adrenal glands that over-produce stress hormones like cortisol, Relf explains.
She goes on to say that “caffeine has been shown to increase the production of cortisol, particularly in those who already have high levels of nervous system activation”.
So, if you suffer from PCOS you might want to limit your caffeine intake during stressful periods to avoid additional cortisol spikes that can affect oestrogen, mood and sleep.
What is the link between caffeine and fertility?
“The link between caffeine and fertility has long been disputed,” Relf says.
“According to the NHS, there’s no evidence to suggest caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee, and fizzy drinks, are associated with fertility problems,” she adds.
But we know that infertility in PCOS is often due to hormonal imbalances that affect ovulation. This is why Relf explains that “prioritising stress reduction, proper sleep, and good nutrition is crucial for managing fertility in PCOS”.
Reducing your caffeine intake could have health benefits and support fertility for those with PCOS.
So, do people with PCOS need to stop consuming coffee?
Relf says this isn’t necessary, but swapping out energy drinks for tea and coffee is a good starting point. “Reducing intake to stay below the recommended 400mg of caffeine per day, especially for those consuming more than four cups, can also be beneficial,” she says.
If you do want to drink a cup of coffee, avoid adding sugar or flavoured syrups as these will negatively impact glucose levels and insulin resistance.
Additionally, you should have breakfast before you drink your coffee because caffeine is an appetite suppressant.
“So if we drink our coffee first we may experience reduced appetite resulting in a skipped or smaller breakfast – this may wreak havoc with your blood glucose levels later in the day as well as what/how we eat throughout the day,” Relf adds.
Hormone and PCOS nutritionist, Mary-Jo (@mjnutrition), shared in a TikTok video that people with PCOS should avoid having caffeine after 12pm.
“It can take a while for caffeine to be fully eliminated from the body, so you can still go to bed with caffeine in your system,” she explained.