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PCOS and Weight Management

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PCOS and Weight Management

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This article explains how weight reduction plays a significant role in managing the complications of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Chithranjali Ravichandran

Published At February 12, 2018
Reviewed AtMarch 15, 2024

What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?

Polycystic means many cysts. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) often causes small clusters of pearl-sized cysts in the ovaries. These cysts are fluid-filled, and they contain immature eggs. Women with PCOS usually produce slightly higher amounts of male hormones like androgens, contributing to some of the condition's symptoms.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder in women. Studies and observations have shown that proper weight management has resolved many issues associated with PCOS.

PCOS is characterized by:

  • Menstrual irregularities or irregular periods.

  • Excess androgen.

  • Ultrasound features of multiple small follicles arranged in the periphery of the ovary.

Women with PCOS can develop many problems related to weight gain and insulin resistance, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes (a condition that affects the blood sugar processing in the body).

  • High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia).

  • High blood pressure (hypertension).

  • Sleep apnea (a sleep disorder accompanied by breathing issues).

PCOS is a commonly occurring hormonal disorder in women of childbearing age. It can lead to issues with fertility. Women with PCOS will have a slightly small amount of male hormones and are also less sensitive to insulin or become ‘insulin-resistant.’ Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese. As a result, they are more prone to heart disease, diabetes (high blood glucose), sleep apnea, and uterine cancer. It causes the following symptoms:

  • Heavy menses (menstruation).

  • Infertility.

  • Miscarriages.

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding.

  • Anxiety (a feeling of uneasiness or fear).

  • Stress.

  • Depression.

  • Acne.

  • Excessive facial hair growth.

  • Weight gain.

What Are the Tests Used to Diagnose PCOS?

  • Pelvic Examination: Examination of the reproductive organs for masses, growths, or other abnormalities.

  • Hormone Test: A blood test is done to detect the level of testosterone (male sex hormone), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), prolactin, and adrenal gland hormones.

  • Ultrasound: The physician checks the appearance of ovaries and the thickness of the uterus lining.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that has a strong connection with obesity. It has been proposed that women with PCOS are affected by inherent insulin resistance with additional obesity and lifestyle-related extrinsic insulin resistance. Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, can further increase insulin resistance, strongly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and CVD (cardiovascular disease) in the general population and women with PCOS. Obesity or insulin resistance exacerbates the reproductive, metabolic, and psychological features of PCOS. According to a survey, only a lower proportion of women with PCOS had a BMI (body mass index) of less than 25, but the majority proportion of women with PCOS had a BMI of more than 30.

  • PCOS can cause severe physiological and psychological health consequences. It can affect women across their reproductive lifespan and lead to pregnancy complications, like preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), gestational diabetes (high blood sugar during pregnancy), and large gestational-age babies. PCOS is usually associated with excess weight gain, which, in turn, increases the health burden of PCOS.

  • Therefore, weight management, including natural weight loss, prevention of weight gain, maintenance of weight loss, and prevention of excess gestational weight gain, is the first-line treatment for women with PCOS.

  • Long studies and cumulative data reflect two kinds of PCOS: central obesity (fat accumulation in the abdomen) and peripheral obesity (fat accumulation in the hips, buttocks, and thighs). Obesity has been directly and indirectly linked to the cholesterol levels in the human body. Hormones are the derivatives of cholesterol, and therefore any changes in cholesterol levels reflect on the hormones.

  • Excessive obesity can cause an imbalance in the FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) levels, leading to menstrual irregularities. This is seen most commonly in the case of central obesity. Weight reduction has shown promising results on the regularization of menses in central obesity patients.

What Are the Ways to Lose Weight With PCOS?

The main goal of weight management in overweight or obese women with PCOS is to prevent further weight gain and, if possible, lose weight. These women should monitor their weight regularly.

A combination of calorie-burning exercises and a balanced cholesterol diet helps in weight management.

  • Doing yoga, aerobics, cardio exercises, brisk walking, and healthy food intake help reduce weight.

  • Taking medication for weight reduction is not a great idea as the weight rebounds once the medication is stopped.

  • Nutrients can help balance hormones like lowering testosterone and raising progesterone and nutrients to support healthy adrenal function and detoxification. All these stressors can make an individual fat and tired. Replacing missing nutrients can help the cells become more insulin sensitive and lower stress hormones like cortisol, so stop storing fat and start burning it, which will also help to increase energy.

  • Use food as medicine to avoid hormonal imbalances.

  • Heavy calorie-burning exercises like skipping, swimming, and cycling are good options.

  • Avoid food and sugar cravings to reach health goals.

  • Cutting down on oily food is a must.

  • Avoid taking cheesy food, junk food, and oily stuff. Instead, take more juices and fruits.

  • Increase consumption of green leafy vegetables.

  • Try taking more steamed, boiled, and baked vegetables and meat instead of fried ones.

  • Be part of a support community because when we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, we can easily reach our health goals and live longer and healthier.

  • Around 250 minutes of moderate or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise are recommended each week to promote weight loss.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

What Is a Very Low Energy Diet?

VLED (a very low-energy diet) is considered an initial weight loss strategy when rapid weight loss is needed. VLEDs are low in carbohydrates, causing mild ketosis after two to three days, and have an anorexic effect. Before starting the VLED, a baseline evaluation of weight and waist circumference and blood tests should be done, and an assessment should be made every four to six weeks.

This diet is not suitable for pregnant or lactating women, those with severe psychological disturbance, recent acute cardiovascular events, substance abuse issues, porphyria (build-up of chemicals from red blood cell proteins), or women over 65.


Thus, the proper strategy of strict weight management in the case of PCOS should be opted by the women to resolve the issues caused by this condition. Women who are having PCOS become obese because of complex endocrine changes. In this case, a five to ten percent loss of body weight can improve symptoms, metabolic, and cardiovascular outcomes, and may improve anovulation. Therefore, these women should consult the healthcare provider and strictly follow the weight management methods to improve their overall health.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Will PCOS Patients Lose Weight Faster?

Patients can lose weight faster by eating less carbohydrates. Take plenty of fiber, and eat healthy fats and protein in the diet. Also limit processed food and sugars in the diet.


Can PCOS Patients Reduce Weight?

Yes, PCOS patients can reduce weight. Reducing weight can bring periods back to normal. Hormonal imbalance, insulin resistance, and inflammation make it difficult for PCOS patients to shed weight.


Why Is Weight Loss Hard in PCOS Patients?

PCOS makes patients more resistant to insulin and thus the pancreas produces more hormones. Insulin helps in the storage of fat, and also it increases hunger. Hormonal imbalance and inflammation make it difficult for PCOS patients to shed weight.


What Type of Exercise Is Done in PCOS Patients?

Moderate exercise like brisk walking, jogging, and swimming is good for patients having PCOS. This type of exercise will increase the sensitivity to insulin and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.


Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy for PCOS?

Intermittent fasting is not recommended for PCOS patients as women with PCOS are advised to consume frequent healthy meals in small portions throughout the day; this approach helps maintain the insulin levels in the body and also solves infertility problems.


What Supplements Help With PCOS Weight Loss?

Many studies have reported that taking supplements help in managing the weight of PCOS patients. Supplements such as Myo-inositol and carnitine play an essential role in weight loss among PCOS women. In addition, further supplements such as chromium cinnamon turmeric, zinc, vitamin D, and calcium help improve the body mass index.


How Many Calories Does a Woman With PCOS Need?

Women who do not have PCOS need roughly 1868 calories per day, while 1445 calories per day are required for women suffering from PCOS. Women with PCOS burn fewer calories than individuals without the condition.


Does Metformin Help With Weight Loss in PCOS?

Metformin can help PCOS patients lose weight, but it is not considered the best nor most effective medication. However, it helps reduce weight and the risk of developing diabetes mellitus. But always be taken after doctor's prescriptions.


How Can I Get Rid of PCOS Belly?

Excess androgen hormones and decreased levels of sex hormone-binding globulin circulating in the blood is the main reason behind the PCOS belly. Three things are required to manage PCOS belly: diet, exercise, and stress management.


Can I Lift Weights if I Have PCOS?

Strength training, such as lifting weights or bodyweight-focused exercise, can help improve many PCOS symptoms, including insulin resistance and slow metabolic rate of the body.


How Much Weight Can You Lose by Taking Inositol?

Inositol can be found in a variety of foods like nuts and fruits. However, it needs to be taken raw. Typically used doses of four grams per day have benefits in normal-weight, overweight and obese women.


Is Keto Diet Good for Patients With PCOS?

The ketogenic diet may improve PCOS symptoms through effective insulin regulation. In addition, it improves insulin resistance of the body, enhances sex hormone imbalance, and improves the metabolic rate of the body.


Do People With PCOS Need Fewer Calories?

Weight gain is quick in PCOS and challenging to lose because of difficulties with insulin, slower metabolic rate, and disordered appetite control. Women who do not have PCOS need roughly 1868 calories per day, while 1445 calories per day are required for women suffering from PCOS.


Does PCOS Cause Belly Fat?

Fat storage in PCOS primarily affects the abdomen, especially the lower abdomen. Factors that contribute to belly fat include fluctuations in hormones. For example, PCOS can make the body resistant to insulin, causing the pancreas to make more of the hormone. That extra insulin promotes fat storage and increases hunger, which can cause weight gain.


Can PCOS Be Considered a Disability?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone disorder in women. PCOS is very unlikely to qualify for social disability. PCOS is rarely severe enough to allow someone for social security disability benefits.
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Dr. Deepali Mohan Pohane
Dr. Deepali Mohan Pohane


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