Thanks for visiting!

This project is now in update mode. Check back regularly to see how things are progressing.

Treating polycystic ovary syndrome with an ADA or Paleo Diet

Raised toward our $40,000 Goal
272 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on September 07, at 11:59 PM PDT
Project Owners

Treating polycystic ovary syndrome with an ADA or Paleo Diet

Help us test two diets to treat PCOS: An American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet and a Paleolithic (Paleo) diet!  

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 8,000,000 women in the US alone. Women with PCOS are often unable to become pregnant, and are at increased risk for obesity, depression, and cancer.

We don't understand all the causes of PCOS but we know that it is closely related to insulin resistance. And one of the best ways to treat insulin resistance is diet!

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a diet based on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and fat-free dairy, with limited saturated fat and cholesterol.  Compared to the standard American diet, this is often a big improvement. Or, it’s possible that a Paleo diet -- one that eliminates foods that would not have been available to our human ancestors, such as grains, dairy products and junk food – would be better.  We expect that both the ADA and Paleo diets will reduce insulin resistance and help women with PCOS, but one might work better than the other, and there may be other important differences between them. You can help us find out!

We're set to run a study that will randomly assign women with PCOS to one of the two diets. Participants will get lots of day-to-day support and advice from trained nutrition coaches to help them stick to their diet.  We'll do medical examinations and blood tests to check for improvements in ovary and hormone function, insulin resistance, and symptoms of PCOS.

That's not all. Insulin resistance is involved in many "disorders of civilization," including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.  If these diets help with insulin resistance, they could improve the lives of millions more people.

Please make a tax-deductible contribution and help us break new ground in research on PCOS!

We'd love to hear your questions or comments! Email project coordinator Michael Cohn at or tweet @PCOSDietStudy!

Click on the "Give Today" button to make a gift toward the study.  For assistance, especially if you are an international donor, please contact UCSF at or 877/499-UCSF (877/499-8273).


Special early-bird incentive: Meet us at the Ancestral Health Symposium

Dr. Lynda Frassetto and Dr. Ashley Mason will be attending the Ancestral Health Symposium in Berkeley, CA August 7-9. We'd be happy to meet with you and talk about the study -- or if you donate at the $250 level, we'll take you to lunch and talk about anything you want!


Project Details

How we'll spend the money

All $40,000 will go to costs for the study – the study personnel are all volunteering their time! Here's our approximate budget:

  • $20,000: Laboratory tests of insulin resistance and other biological outcomes.
  • $12,000: Research supplies and lab space.
  • $4000: Payments to participants for providing questionnaires, urine and blood samples, and uterine images.
  • $4000: Tracking and staying in touch wth participants, data entry and administrative support.


Risks and Challenges

Our protocol has been peer reviewed University of California, San Francisco researchers to ensure that it’s feasible to run and likely to produce useful findings. Nonetheless, there are a couple of possible challenges:

1. Slow recruitment: We may have trouble getting patients to sign up. However, we're dedicated to completing recruitment even if the study takes longer to run than we expected.

2. Diet adherence: As everyone knows, it can be hard to get started on a new diet. We’ve prepared for this in a number of ways: Each participant will get lots of one-on-one time with nutrition coaches who are available to meet in person, by phone, or online. We’ll connect participants with others on the same diet via social media, and help them find places to shop and eat in their neighborhoods. We’ll give them easy-to-read material about their diet, access to laboratory tests that are done as part of their care, and pointers to other great internet resources and online communities. We will carefully monitor what participants eat to ensure that they are staying on their diet.

Study Team 

Altogether, our team has literally decades of experience running dietary research studies and treating subjects with PCOS and insulin resistance! The Principal investigators are Umesh Masharani, MD, a clinical endocrinologist and diabetes researcher, Lynda Frassetto, MD, a professor of medicine and kidney specialist, and Heather Huddleston, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and director of a multidisciplinary clinic for women with PCOS.

We have a great supporting team, too. Watch for "meet the staff" features in the Updates section!

Study Protocol

If you'd like more details on the proposed study design, check out our protocol at

More questions? Check out our FAQ.

Even more questions? Email or tweet @PCOSDietStudy!

Our way
of Thanking You


Autographed protocol

We'll mail you a copy of the study protocol autographed by the team

83 of 100 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: October 2014


Scientist-approved snacks

Receive a gift package containing each researcher's favorite healthy snack

37 of 100 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: September 2014


Autographed book - Paleo style

An autographed cookbook or diet book from Loren Cordain (founder of the paleo diet movement)

20 of 20 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: September 2014


Autographed book - ADA style

An autographed cookbook or diet book from Cheryl Forberg (healthy diet expert and head dietitian on "The Biggest Loser")

1 of 20 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: September 2014


Consult an Expert

15-minute video chat with the lead researchers -- ask your questions about nutrition, PCOS, or the world of research!

5 of 15 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: December 2014


Lunch at AHS

Early Bird Special: Going to the Ancestral Health Symposium in Berkeley? We'll take you to lunch!

2 of 5 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: August 2014


Paleo or ADA diet consultation

Have a 25 minute nutritional consultation with one of the researchers (phone or video chat, unless you're in the Bay Area)

1 of 20 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: September 2014


Visit the lab

Tour our lab, meet the team, and see where we assess our participants.

3 of 10 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: September 2014


We make you dinner

One of the researchers will come to your home (within 25 miles of San Francisco) and cook a fantastic paleo or ADA dinner for you and your family or friends.

0 of 5 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: December 2014


Cooking demo and party

The research team will come to your home (within 25 miles of San Francisco) and do a paleo or ADA cooking demonstration plus dinner for you and up to 8 family or friends!

0 of 3 Claimed
Estimated Delivery: December 2014