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Obesity in PCOS linked to hormones
[Posted: Tue 05/09/2006 www.irishhealth.com]
By Deborah Condon
Obesity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may be due to a metabolic disturbance that causes constant hunger and inhibits weight loss, the results of new research suggests.
With PCOS, the ovaries tend to be enlarged with multiple cysts on the surface. The condition is one of the leading causes of infertility in women and symptoms can include irregular periods, hirsutism (excessive growth of body/facial hair) and acne.
Many women with the condition are also overweight or obese.
However according to researchers at the University of Adelaide, recent studies show that the appetites of many women with PCOS are not effectively suppressed after meals, causing continual hunger. Yet the results also show that the women do not necessarily overeat.
"The cause of constant hunger may be related to a disturbance in the pathway of hormones from the stomach to the brain, disrupting signals that indicate satiety or the feeling of having had enough to eat. This metabolic disturbance also appears to prevent the women from losing weight as easily as other people", explained Prof Robert Norman of the university.
He pointed out that one of the most distressing complications of PCOS is infertility and obesity can unfortunately exacerbate this problem. This is due to the fact that high levels of insulin, which are due to insulin resistance, have an adverse effect on the ovaries. One of these effects is an increase in production of the hormone, testosterone, which interferes with normal ovulation.
Furthermore if a pregnancy does occur, there is an increased risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and birth by Caesarean section.
Prof Norman pointed out that weight loss can improve the chances of pregnancy and a normal birth.
"If insulin levels can be lowered, the cysts in the ovaries don't produce as much testosterone and other hormones that may adversely affect outcome", he said.
He recommended that women with PCOS who are trying to lose weight through dietary and lifestyle changes, should pay careful consideration to breakfast.
"Research shows that the 'big breakfast', with a mixture of protein, low GI, carbohydrate and a little fat, is sustaining. Combining this approach with exercise is a good tip for women seeking to reverse the infertility due to PCOS", Prof Norman said.
He made his comments at the 10th International Congress on Obesity in Sydney, Australia.
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