Many women of reproductive age are affected by the common hormonal disorder known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Between 5 and 18% of women worldwide have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), with an average prevalence of 276.4 cases per 100,000 people in Europe (1).
Weight gain is one of the typical symptoms of PCOS, which can make it challenging to manage the condition and can also result in other health issues.
People with PCOS can, however, take measures to reduce their weight and enhance their general health.
Symptoms of PCOS
The first menstrual period is typically when PCOS symptoms first appear, though they can also appear later after having periods for a while (2).
Common symptoms of PCOS include:
- period irregularities or absence altogether
- trouble getting pregnant
- hirsutism (excessive hair growth), which typically affects the face, chest, back, or buttocks
- weight gain
- hair thinning and hair loss from the head
- oily skin or acne
- darkened skin or skin tags (3).
In addition to having many tiny cysts on their ovaries and high levels of androgens, women with PCOS may not ovulate.
Weight gain can be a symptom of PCOS and addedly can serve as a significant detriment to one’s own mental health.
As a result of their symptoms, many women with PCOS report having feelings of depression, anxiety, and poor body image (4).
Emotional distress can be exacerbated by the visible signs of PCOS, such as excessive hair growth and weight gain, which can also be a source of embarrassment and social stigma.
Therefore, our aim is to establish the link between PCOS and weight gain, as well as providing suggestions for lifestyle changes to manage and treatment to lose weight while having PCOS.
The Link Between PCOS and Weight Gain
Although the precise cause of PCOS is unknown, it is believed to be linked to hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance (5).
A condition known as insulin resistance occurs when the body stops responding to the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. As a result, the bloodstream may contain higher levels of insulin, which may prompt the ovaries to produce more androgens (male hormones) like testosterone.
Along with other PCOS symptoms, this hormonal imbalance can contribute to weight gain and make it more difficult to lose weight.
Insulin and Your Metabolism
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. When the body develops insulin resistance, the cells do not respond to insulin as they should, forcing the pancreas to produce more insulin as a result.
This can eventually result in high insulin levels and a number of metabolic problems.
Insulin resistance is a critical component of both obese and lean polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) women, and it affects between 70 and 95 percent of obese PCOS patients and between 30 and 75 percent of lean PCOS patients (7).
Similar to PCOS, insulin resistance affects up to 30% to 40% of women with PCOS and can result in type 2 diabetes by raising blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance can increase androgen production in the ovaries, which can disrupt ovulation and cause irregular periods (8).
Weight gain brought on by insulin resistance can exacerbate the symptoms of PCOS.
A slower metabolism and a propensity to store fat around the abdomen are additional factors that make it more difficult for women with PCOS to lose weight. As a result, there may be a higher chance of becoming obese, which raises the possibility of developing other health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea.
How To Lose Weight With PCOS
Other factors, in addition to insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances, can cause weight gain in PCOS-afflicted women.
These consist of:
Anyone who leads a sedentary lifestyle will gain weight, but women with PCOS may experience greater difficulties as a result.
Exercise can help to increase weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower the risk of other PCOS-related health issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Sedentary lifestyles may increase the risk of weight gain and make it more difficult for women with PCOS to lose weight.
Weight gain in PCOS-affected women can also be attributed to an unhealthy diet. A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and bad fats can exacerbate insulin resistance and cause weight gain. Due to the hormonal imbalances caused by the condition, women with PCOS may also be more likely to experience cravings for sweet and high-carbohydrate foods.
Stress management is crucial when following a weight loss plan because it can worsen PCOS symptoms and cause weight gain. Stress can worsen insulin resistance and cause hormonal imbalances, which can make weight loss more challenging.
Last but not least, weight gain in PCOS-affected women may also be influenced by genetics. PCOS may be more likely to develop in women with a family history of obesity, and these same women may also be more prone to weight gain.
Medication and Treatment Options
While there are multiple treatment options for PCOS and its symptoms, Scienceandhumans.com recommends two distinct treatments for PCOS and weight loss of the several it offers.
bHRT and other hormonal therapies:
In order to treat the signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (bHRT) uses hormones that are chemically identical to those produced by the body.
To lose weight, for instance, testosterone replacement therapy may be used to lower elevated testosterone levels and enhance insulin sensitivity (10).
Additionally, low estrogen levels, which can contribute to weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight, may be treated with estrogen replacement therapy. Low progesterone levels, which can cause water retention and bloating and contribute to weight gain, may also be treated with progesterone replacement therapy.
All of the above hormones are available through prescription via scienceandhumans.com and our pharmacy partner. When you connect with one of our professionals, we will provide you an assessment that is tailored to your hormone health needs.
Weight Loss Therapy:
Given that PCOS is frequently accompanied by weight gain, GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide may also help PCOS patients lose weight. GLP-1 agonists are a class of drugs that are used to treat type 2 diabetes and have also been shown to be successful in helping people lose weight. Increased insulin secretion, decreased glucagon secretion, and slowed gastric emptying are how GLP-1 agonists work.
This causes an increase in fullness sensations and a decrease in appetite, which can aid in weight loss. Among GLP-1 agonists, semaglutide is known for providing promising results following several of its clinical trials.
For example, in a study of 1306 patients taking semaglutide 2.4 mg, weight loss of approximately 6% was achieved by week 12, and 12% was achieved by week 28 (8).
Similarly, scienceandhumans.com offers this class of medication as a weight loss supplement. Understanding the benefits and risks combining classes of prescriptions, such as hormones and weight loss treatment, our experts will tailor a drug regimen to your unique needs and preferences.
Take our online test and check if you are eligible for our hormone therapy
This allows our medical team to analyse your blood test and confirm if you’ve qualified for treatment
In conclusion, there is a strong connection between PCOS and weight loss, and managing weight presents particular difficulties for women with PCOS. However, it is possible to reduce weight and enhance general health with a mix of lifestyle adjustments and medical treatments.
At Science & Humans, we offer a range of treatments for PCOS-related weight gain, including GLP-1 agonists and bHRT therapy. These medications can be highly effective in helping women with PCOS to lose weight, manage insulin resistance, and improve their overall health.
In addition to medical interventions, we also emphasize the importance of lifestyle changes for weight loss in PCOS patients. Our team of medical professionals provides personalized support and guidance to help patients make sustainable changes to their diet and exercise habits.
In general, we think that a thorough strategy for treating PCOS is essential to giving our patients the best results. We can assist women in achieving their weight loss goals and enhancing their general health and wellbeing by addressing both the hormonal imbalances and the lifestyle factors that contribute to weight gain in PCOS.
1. Health–Europe TL. Polycystic ovary syndrome: What more can be done for patients?. The Lancet Regional Health-Europe. 2022 Oct;21. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanepe/article/PIIS2666-7762(22)00220-4/fulltext
2. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439 (2022).
3. 1. Polycystic ovary syndrome - Symptoms. nhs.uk, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/symptoms/.
4. Chaudhari AP, Mazumdar K, Mehta PD. Anxiety, depression, and quality of life in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Indian journal of psychological medicine. 2018 May;40(3):239-46. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968645/
5. Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Dunaif A. Insulin resistance and the polycystic ovary syndrome revisited: an update on mechanisms and implications. Endocrine reviews. 2012 Dec 1;33(6):981-1030. https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article-abstract/33/6/981/2354926
6. Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Dunaif A. Insulin resistance and the polycystic ovary syndrome revisited: an update on mechanisms and implications. Endocrine reviews. 2012 Dec 1;33(6):981-1030. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8984569/
7. Davis E (2022) The connection between PCOS and insulin resistance. In: The Connection Between PCOS and Insulin Resistance. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/insulin-resistance-pcos. Accessed 14 May 2023
8.Ghusn W, De la Rosa A, Sacoto D, Cifuentes L, Campos A, Feris F, Hurtado MD, Acosta A. Weight Loss Outcomes Associated With Semaglutide Treatment for Patients With Overweight or Obesity. JAMA Network Open. 2022 Sep 1;5(9):e2231982-.https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.31982
9. Kshetrimayum C, Sharma A, Mishra VV, Kumar S. Polycystic ovarian syndrome: Environmental/occupational, lifestyle factors; an overview. Journal of the Turkish German Gynecological Association. 2019 Dec;20(4):255. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6883751/
10. Orio F, Palomba S. New guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of PCOS. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 2014 Mar;10(3):130-2.