PCOS & OBESITY: A Complicated Relationship

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones.

This hormone imbalance causes them to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant.

PCOS also causes hair growth on the face and body and baldness. And it can contribute to long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

Insulin action in PCOS (Relation with Obesity)

Most of the women with PCOS have insulin resistance, meaning that their cells can’t use insulin. Insulin is a hormone the pancreas produces to help the body use sugar from energy foods.

When cells can’t use insulin properly, the body’s demand for insulin increases. The pancreas makes more insulin to compensate.

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 weight gain.

Since the weight gain is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen. That is where men tend to accumulate fat. So, instead of having a pear shape, women with PCOS have more of an apple shape.

Can Obesity Cause PCOS?

Reproductive disturbances are more common in obese women regardless of the diagnosis of PCOS.

Obese women are more likely to have menstrual irregularity and infertility than normal-weight women.

In reproductive-age women, the relative risk of infertility increases at a BMI of 24 kg/m2 and continues to rise with increasing BMI

Weight reduction can restore regular menstrual cycles in these women.

Does PCOS Cause Make You Obese?

Androgens play an important role in the determination of body composition.

Men have less body fat with greater distribution of fat in the upper portion of the body (android) compared to women, who tend to accumulate fat in the lower portion of the body (gynoid).

Chronic exposure to higher testosterone levels in women with PCOS may modify body fat distribution in these women.

Hence, it is important for one to understand how to manage the obesity levels in the body such that it doesn’t invite other problems like PCOS in your system. A healthier lifestyle is the one that can be controlled.