PCOS and Weight Gain

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a heterogenous disorder that is characterized by a state of increased androgen levels (measured either clinically or through laboratory tests), a dysregulation of ovulatory functioning, and polycystic ovarian morphology.

<img src="Embed from Getty Images” alt=”Diagram of ovaries”/>

Although patients may remain without symptoms, most notable characteristics are a state of clinical hyperandrogenism particularly hirsutism (presence of hair overgrowth), menstrual irregularities (often leading to difficulty conceiving), and elevated testosterone levels in the blood.

The cause of PCOS is still unknown but is thought to develop from an interplay of factors from heredity, fetal development, environment, and metabolism.

It because of this relative hormonal and biochemical imbalance that PCOS is associated with a high prevalence of weight gain and obesity. Women with this condition range from 30-70% depending on which part of the world they are. Other conditions in which PCOS is associated with are: metabolic complications (such as type 2 diabetes), pregnancy complications, anxiety and depression, endometrial cancer, and obstructive sleep disorder.

Most medical societies advocate lifestyle modification measures as an important facet in the management of PCOS. Increasing physical activity and exercise together with a sensible diet has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes and improve ovulatory cycles among women with PCOS.

Weight loss may further be achieved by lessening caloric intake by 500 Calories per day. Consuming foods with low glycemic indices may help stave off cravings during the day and help stabilize blood glucose levels. Monitoring water intake to 2 liters per day may also help reduce food cravings. As with any weight loss measure, a daily multivitamin supplement may be necessary to supply nutrients from the restrictive diet.


ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 194: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. (2018). Obstetrics & Gynecology, 131(6), e157–e171. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000002656

Australian National Health and Medical Research Council/American Society for Reproductive Medicine/European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (NHMRC/ASRM/ESHRE). (n.d.). International evidence-based guideline on assessment and management of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Legro, R. S., Arslanian, S. A., Ehrmann, D. A., Hoeger, K. M., Murad, M. H., Pasquali, R., & Welt, C. K. (2013). Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 98(12), 4565–4592. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-2350

Ricardo Azziz, Enrico Carmina, ZiJiang Chen, Andrea Dunaif, Joop S. E. Laven, Richard S. Legro, Daria Lizneva, Barbara Natterson-Horowtiz, Helena J. Teede & Bulent O. Yildiz. (2016). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 2(16057). Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nrdp201657