The Effects of Weight on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Outcomes

Woman's feet on a scaleResearchers have long established a connection between a woman’s weight and her likelihood of having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese. However, a team led by researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute in Australia argues that past findings concerning the effects of being overweight or obese on PCOS outcomes have been inconsistent.

In a study, the researchers examined the effects of weight on the reproductive and metabolic features of PCOS. Their study, “The effect of obesity on polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” was published online ahead of print in October 2012. It appears in the journal Obesity Reviews.

The researchers conducted a review of past literature to help develop a consensus about the effects of women’s weight on their PCOS. The study authors searched for PCOS studies that included body mass index or body fat distribution as key variables, using the following databases: CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), EMBASE, MEDLINE, and PSYCINFO.

The review of literature uncovered 30 relevant studies. An assessment of the prior research revealed that women with PCOS who were obese showed significant differences in the measured outcomes when compared to women of normal weight. However, these differences were not seen in women who were overweight but not obese.

The study results showed that being obese caused women to have significantly worse metabolic and reproductive outcomes than women with normal weights (on all measured outcomes besides hirsutism). Overweight women did not differ from normal-weight women in their total testosterone, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, and hirsutism scores. Women who were centrally obese had higher fasting insulin levels than normal-weight women with PCOS.

The study authors conclude that their review of literature demonstrates a need for obesity prevention and treatment to help women manage their PCOS.

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