This week’s family friendly research news includes a look at how one’s diet can diminish the risks associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as the link between parental substance abuse and a child’s intellectual disability.

Try keto for PCOS

As many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have polycystic ovary syndrome, which can cause infertility and raise the risk of metabolic health problems or diabetes. But new research suggests a ketogenic diet can lower testosterone levels and ease symptoms.

That’s according to a study from Malaysia just published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society that says a high fat, low carbohydrate diet can help women with the condition lose weight and keep it off. It may also improve fertility, normalize their menstruation and help their cholesterol levels.

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PCOS, as it’s commonly called, is marked by higher-than-normal levels of testosterone and other androgen hormones, irregular periods and small cysts on the ovaries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the condition is a common cause of female infertility, impacting 6%-12% of U.S. women in the reproductive age range. The women may also be more prone to acne, thinning scalp hair and excess hair growth on the face and body, CDC said.

The condition also elevates the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol and low good cholesterol, sleep apnea and stroke. Women with PCOS may also be more prone to depression and anxiety, though little is known about why that risk increases.

According to a news release about the study, “They found women with PCOS who were on the keto diet for at least 45 days saw significant weight loss and an improvement in their reproductive hormone levels. Their follicle-stimulating hormone ratio was lower, which means they may have a better chance of ovulating. The women also had lower testosterone levels, which could help with excess hair growth and other symptoms of excess male sex hormones.”

If mom or dad has a substance use disorder

Research from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found that children with a parent who has either a drug or alcohol use disorder are at greater risk of intellectual disability. That link is found “even if the problem only lies with the father,” according to research published in the journal eClinicalMedicine.

Studies have clearly shown the risk to children when a mother drinks during pregnancy, including the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome and of intellectual disability. This study says any form of substance abuse — by either mother or father — can be a risk factor. And it’s not just the use of substances during the pregnancy, either.

The researchers looked at data from 2 million babies born between 1978 and 2002, noting that 1.2% of babies born to parents with no history of substance use disorder had an intellectual disability, compared to 3% of the babies whose mother or father had such a disorder.

“The elevated risk was greater if the parent had received a diagnosis before or during pregnancy rather than after birth,” a news release on the findings states. “A substance use disorder diagnosis registered before birth was associated with more than twice the risk of intellectual disability in the baby, regardless of which parent had the diagnosis.”

The correlation remained, though was somewhat weaker, after the researchers adjusted for socioeconomics and whether parents had a psychiatric condition, the researchers said.

They noted that they couldn’t explain the “underlying mechanisms,” but they had theories, including that “both genetic and environmental factors including harmful effects of substance abuse on fetal development may play a part.”

Their research suggests that efforts to prevent substance use disorder in both men and women would be helpful to their future children, the researchers said.

In the study, alcohol use during pregnancy by either parent was a particular risk for intellectual disability. When it was the mother who had the diagnosis, the risk was five times higher. When it was the father, the risk was three times higher.