Obesity Appears to Increase the Risk of Developing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Obesity appears to increase the risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), according to a study presented at ENDO 2023.

An estimated 7% to 10% of all reproductive-aged women globally have PCOS. Women with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance and metabolism problems that may affect their overall health, appearance, and fertility.

PCOS is associated with health issues including:

  • Acne, scalp hair loss and excessive hair growth
  • Increased risk of infertility
  • Increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and hypertension
  • Increased risk of depression, anxiety and eating disorders
  • Increased risk of endometrial cancer

Obesity has been viewed as driving the high prevalence of PCOS, the single most common endocrine disorder of women.

“Our study suggests for the first time that the high prevalence of PCOS in the world may, in part, be due to the rising obesity rate globally,” says Mina Amiri, PhD, of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran, who is one of the study’s authors. “Additionally, obesity associated with PCOS may increase the risk of diabetes, hypertension and other health problems.”

The researchers evaluated 6,271 studies and selected a total of 55 studies, including 71,081 adult reproductive-aged women, which recorded the prevalence of PCOS globally. They compared the prevalence of PCOS with the prevalence of obesity in individual nations and found a significant association between the obesity prevalence in a population and its PCOS prevalence when high quality studies were considered.

“The findings of the research may help clinicians and the general public understand that while many women with PCOS are not obese, the rate of obesity may help drive the rising rate of PCOS,” says Ricardo Azziz, MD, MPH, MBA, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who is senior author of the study.