PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder in women of childbearing age and can lead to infertility. Obesity is strongly associated with the PCOS. Although the cause of this association remains unknown, obesity is present in at least 30% of PCOS cases, in some series, the percentage may be as high as 75%.
Why PCOS is linked to obesity?
PCOS makes it more difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This condition is called insulin resistance and can cause insulin and sugar or glucose to build up in the bloodstream.
High insulin levels increase the production of male hormones called androgens. High androgen levels lead to symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods and obesity. Because obesity is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen. That is where men tend to carry weight. So, instead of having a pear shape, women with PCOS have more of an apple shape.
Abdominal fat is the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s because it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
What are the risks associated with PCOS-related obesity?
No matter what the cause, obesity can be detrimental to your health. Women with PCOS are more likely to develop many of the problems associated with obesity and insulin resistance, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Endometrial cancer
Many of these conditions can lead to heart disease. In fact, women with PCOS are 4 to 7 times more likely to have a heart attack than women of the same age without the condition. Experts think obesity also triggers PCOS symptoms, such as menstrual abnormalities and acne.
What can you do to lose weight if you have PCOS?
Losing weight not only cuts your risk for many diseases, it can also make you feel better. When you have PCOS, shedding just 10% of your body weight can bring your periods back to normal. It can also help relieve some of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Weight loss can improve insulin sensitivity. That will reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other PCOS complications.
To lose weight, start with a visit to your doctor and dietician. They will weigh you and check your waist size and body mass index. The doctor may prescribe some medications if required. Several medications are approved for PCOS, a few are used specifically to promote weight loss. These include: Metformin and Thiazolidinediones.
In addition to the medication, adding healthy habits into your lifestyle can help you keep your weight under control:
- Eat a high-fibre, low-sugar diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid processed and fatty foods to keep your blood sugar levels in check. If you’re having trouble eating healthy on your own, talk to your dietitian.
- Eat four to six small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. This will help control your blood sugar levels.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most, if not all, days of the week.
- Work with your doctor to track your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
- If you smoke, get involved in a program that can help you quit.
- Get adequate sleep and drink adequate water.