You should avoid Dairy if you have PCOS

Dairy is a very popular food group and it is very likely that you consume at least one dairy product, whether it be milk, cheese or yogurt, in your diet. It is possible that you have come across various points of view with regards to whether you should eat dairy or not when you have PCOS.


SO what is the problem with Dairy?


If you suffer from acne, you may want to limit your dairy consumption, more specifically your milk intake. Results from studies have shown that cow’s milk increased both the number of people who got acne and its severity.

Even Nestle, the world's largest producer of milk, explains in a 2011 research paper published in Nestle's Nutritional


Workshop Series how milk can cause acne. 


What is in milk that causes acne?


Milk is full of anabolic hormones, hormones that promote growth. Research indicates that there are over 60 hormones in a glass of milk. Most of the hormones are androgens, such as testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, as well as growth hormones, like insulin and insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which all stimulate the production of acne.


Milk, Sugar and Insulin


Studies have positively linked milk consumption with higher plasma IGF-1 levels and skim milk is predominantly the cause for the increase in IGF-1 levels. IGF-1 has been shown to increase sebum production, make skin pores more visible and increase skin cell growth.


Further research conducted by Harvard School of Public Health in 2007 "found a link between those who drank milk and regularly suffered with acne. Those who drank skimmed milk suffered with the worst breakouts”. (Reilly, 2013)


It is interesting to see that there was no strong link between drinking full fat milk and acne. Why is that?


Research indicates it is not the anabolic hormones in milk alone that may cause acne, it is also milk's ability to trigger insulin production. It is believed that it may be the lactose or milk sugar that is also a likely cause of acne.

Skim milk is created by placing whole milk into a machine called a centrifugal separator, which spins some or all of the fat globules out of the milk. Popular belief is that skim milk has added sugar. However, this is not true. As the fat has been removed the sugar in the milk, the lactose, is more concentrated.


Research results have shown that the increase in insulin and IGF-1 when drinking milk is similar to the increase when high glycaemic food is consumed. Drinking milk can spike insulin levels 300 percent. Studies have found compelling evidence indicating high glycemic load diets aggravate acne. Consuming high glycaemic foods and milk leads to an increase in insulin and IGF-1


A link between dairy and PCOS?


Studies have indicated that milk intake and PCOS were directly related. Further studies concur that there is a relationship between slim/low-fat or fat - free milk and an increased frequency of acne, a symptom of PCOS.

Low-fat dairy products may increase the level of insulin like growth factor I (IGF-I). Also, consuming low-fat dairy products has also been linked to an increase in androgen secretion. Research has also been suggesting that  IGF-1 may be linked/ a cause PCOS.


Whole milk, on the other hand, has a higher concentration of estrogen and estrogen can reduce the level of IGF-1.


Fertility and Dairy


Research suggests the fatty acids of dairy products may have positive effects on the ovary function.

A study conducted by Chavarro et al. found that consuming large amounts of low-fat dairy products may lead to an increase in the women's risk of ovulation-related infertility while eating more high-fat dairy foods may decrease its risk.


Can I still eat dairy?


Yes, you can still eat some dairy. If you suffer from PCOS, switching to goat or sheep dairy can help with acne.

It can be seen that cow's milk causes acne for some people. Studies have indicated higher rates of acne in people who drink more milk. Research identifies that milk increases both insulin and IGF-1 levels, and both of these hormones are linked to acne.

Research has only identified skimmed milk as largely the cause of high insulin and acne. Studies have not found any relationship between cheese or dairy consumption on acne.


Dairy Alternatives


BroccoliThere are plenty of dairy alternatives if you are worried about the calcium you will be missing out, if you decide to cut out dairy from your diet.

Cow's milk alternatives are; almond, coconut, hazelnut, cashew or rice milk.

Other sources of calcium; tofu, nuts, white beans, black-eyed peas, oranges green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, kale, okra. Fish- such as sardines.


Since cutting out dairy from my diet, I have noticed my skin clear up and I feel less bloated.


Have you limited your dairy consumption and seen an improvement in acne or other PCOS symptoms? Leave a comment down below letting us know. I’d love to hear from you!




Abedamowo CA , Spiegelman D , Danby FW , Frazier AL , Willett WC, Holmes MD . (2005). High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne . J Am Acad Dermatol. 52(2), 207–214.


Chavarro, J.E., Rich-Edwards, J.W., Rosner, B. and Willett, W.C. (2007). "A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility". Human Reproduction. URL: . 2(5), 1340–1347.

Cook, E. (2013). "Sound Body". Retrieved from:

Danby FW. (2010). "Nutrition and Acne". 28(6),598–604.

Melnik, B.C. (2012). " Diet in Acne: Further Evidence for the Role of Nutrient Singalling in Acne Pathogenesis". Medical Journals Limited. URL: .  92(3), 228-231(4).

Melnik, B.C. (2009). "Milk- The promoter of chronic Western diseases". Medical Hypotheses. URL: .72(6), 631-639.

















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