Insulin resistance : a root cause of PCOS

Are you one of the millions of women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome who, no matter what they’ve tried, has failed to better manage or reverse the symptoms of this condition? It may not be due to lack of willpower. Instead, you could be Insulin Resistant, a root cause of PCOS. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health, Stanford University and other research centers have clearly identified the existence and effects of Insulin Resistance, a biochemical condition that can cause excessive weight gain and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

 

PCOS AND INSULIN RESISTANCE

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal imbalance linked to the way the body processes insulin after it has been produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar (glucose). Insulin Resistance, an underlying cause of PCOS, has many factors that contribute to its presence in the body. In essence, our environment and lifestyles have evolved too rapidly for our bodies to keep pace. We are still genetically “wired” to thrive on the entrenched habits of our ancestors, who consumed different, nutrient-rich foods and a diet low in carbohydrates and who sustained greater levels of movement and exercise. Some people may also have a genetic predisposition to Insulin Resistance, while others develop the condition through high stress and unhealthy lifestyles.

INSULIN RESISTANCE NEGATIVELY AFFECTS GLUCOSE AND INSULIN LEVELS

Over time, the above factors have damaged the complex ability of the body’s cells to properly utilize insulin to convert glucose to energy. This process creates Insulin Resistance.

Insulin Resistance vastly reduces the insulin sensitivity of cells, which impairs the processing of glucose through the cell wall for conversion to energy. As a result, glucose remains in the blood stream, causing elevated levels of blood sugar, which are sent to the liver. Once there, the sugar is converted into fat and stored via the blood stream throughout the body. This process can lead to weight gain and obesity, key factors in creating PCOS, which is also referred to as Polycystic Ovarian Disease or PCOD.

 

 

Insulin Resistance can also cause PCOS is by raising insulin levels in the blood stream. Unhealthy lifestyles and genetic conditions can lead to the pancreas overproducing insulin. This excess insulin stimulates the ovaries to produce large amounts of the male hormone testosterone, which may prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg each month, thus causing infertility. High levels of insulin also increase the conversion of androgens (male hormones) to estrogens (female hormones), upsetting a delicate balance between the two and having a direct effect on weight gain and the formation of cystic follicles or ovarian cysts.

 

 

SYMPTOMS OF PCOS

The symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome vary widely from woman to woman. In addition to polycystic ovaries, they can also include: irregular or completely absent periods, Hirsutism (excessive facial or body hair), Alopecia (male pattern hair loss), obesity, acne, skin tags (raisin-like growths on the skin), Acanthosis Nigricans (brown skin patches), exhaustion or lack of mental alertness and decreased sex drive. Because the symptoms vary so widely and not all women display all the symptoms, doctors very often misdiagnose PCOS. This became an issue of critical concern after a study in 2000 found that women suffering from PCOS have a higher risk of coronary heart disease.

Researchers discovered a link between Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and other metabolic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and high levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for coronary heart disease.

Studies have also shown an increased link between PCOS and atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty deposits called plaque cling to the interior walls of the arteries, leading to blockages that can cause heart attacks or stroke. Not only do PCOS sufferers have higher rates of plaque buildup but those over 45 have thicker deposits of plaque.

Another report indicated that up to 40% of women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome have either impaired glucose tolerance or Type 2 Diabetes by the age of 40.

All these findings substantially raise the bar on the seriousness of PCOS, making it even more important that doctors correctly diagnose the condition and instruct their patients about Insulin Resistance.

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Insulin resistance : a root cause of PCOS

  1. Pingback: What Is PCOS? Some More Details… « Chat, Understand and Conquer PCOS!

  2. Thanks for putting good information out there.

  3. Thanks so much for this info — coming from someone pretty new to this topic. Here’s a quiz I’ve found that can tell you if you have an underlying hormonal imbalance: http://www.womentowomen.com/healthassessment/default.aspx and another pretty good intro article about PCOS: http://www.womentowomen.com/insulinresistance/pcos.aspx

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