PCOS and caffeine: should you avoid tea and coffee?

Tea and coffee are part of most people’s lives, whether you love the ritual of making your morning pot or just down it to get through tiring days. But people with PCOS are frequently told to avoid or reduce their intake of caffeinated drinks.

We know that looking after your body with the right nutrition is important if you have the condition. But is it true that you have to quit all of your favourite drinks to support your hormonal health?

Does caffeine impact insulin?

The body controls blood sugar with the hormone insulin, but a side effect of PCOS is insulin resistance and metabolic disorders. 

Historically, research has suggested that caffeine is bad for insulin. One very small study in 10 people from 2008 found that people with type 2 diabetes^1who took a pill with 250-milligram of caffeine (around two cups of coffee worth) at breakfast and lunchtime had 8% higher blood sugar than on days when they didn’t have caffeine.

Insulin resistance in PCOS isn't the same as diabetes, so while these results are interesting they can’t be directly applied. There’s also a difference between straight caffeine and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee which also contain bioactive components. A 2021 paper^2 reported that the mix of polyphenols and caffeine in coffee means it is beneficial in maintaining metabolic homeostasis in women with PCOS, while a 2020 paper found that supplementing with green coffee (a type of unroasted coffee bean) was associated with significantly reduced free testosterone, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels.

How does caffeine impact the adrenal glands?

Caffeine has been shown to increase the production of cortisol^4, particularly in those who already have high levels of nervous system activation. 

Women with PCOS tend to have adrenal glands that over-produce stress hormones like cortisol that impact the nervous system. While we often use coffee to get through stressful times, this research suggests it might be best to avoid caffeine during busy or overwhelming periods to avoid extra cortisol spikes. 

Long term, excess cortisol can impact oestrogen levels, mood and sleep, so it might be worth thinking about your caffeine intake.

Caffeine and fertility

The link between caffeine and fertility has long been disputed. According to the NHS, there's no evidence to suggest caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee and colas, are associated with fertility problems. 

In people with PCOS, infertility can be down to hormonal irregulation that results in a lack of ovulation. Supporting your hormonal health with stress reduction, proper sleep and nutrition are important ways to manage your fertility with PCOS. If caffeine is impacting your sleep schedule or stress levels, reducing your intake might be beneficial for overall health which in turn supports fertility.

Click here to find out how our award winning Preconception Supplement can help improve your chances of conceiving.

How to give up caffeine

You don’t need to give up all caffeine if you have PCOS, but if you feel that it is negatively impacting your health then it might be time to look at your intake. 

One way to start would be to switch from caffeinated energy drinks to tea and coffee that contain ingredients which are beneficial for your overall health. 

If you drink more than four cups of coffee or tea a day, reducing your intake to below the recommended 400mg of caffeine a day will also be beneficial for your health. 

If you notice that you run on coffee to stay alert, you might want to swap for a decaf option to better manage your cortisol levels, particularly during times of stress.

Click here for our “7-Day PCOS Diet Plan: A Comprehensive Guide” packed with delicious PCOS friendly recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

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1. James D. Lane, Mark N. Feinglos, Richard S. Surwit; Caffeine Increases Ambulatory Glucose and Postprandial Responses in Coffee Drinkers With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 1 February 2008; 31 (2): 221–222.

2. Cornelis MC, Erlund I, Michelotti GA, Herder C, Westerhuis JA, Tuomilehto J. Metabolomic response to coffee consumption: application to a three-stage clinical trial. J Intern Med. 2018 Jun;283(6):544-557. doi: 10.1111/joim.12737. Epub 2018 Mar 15. PMID: 29381822.

3. Ahmad Mousavi, Ahmad Saedisomeolia, Mirsaeed Yekaninejad, Azam Ildarabadi, Mehrnoush Meshkani, Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi,
Effect of green coffee supplementation on androgens level in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial, Obesity Medicine, Volume 20, 2020, 100298, ISSN 2451-8476.

4. Lovallo WR, Farag NH, Vincent AS, Thomas TL, Wilson MF. Cortisol responses to mental stress, exercise, and meals following caffeine intake in men and women. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Mar;83(3):441-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2006.03.005. Epub 2006 May 2. PMID: 16631247; PMCID: PMC2249754.