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Metabolic and hormonal aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome: the impact of diet

  • Annalouise O'Connor (a1), James Gibney (a2) and Helen M. Roche (a1)


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common, chronic endocrine condition affecting young women of reproductive age. It is characterised by hyperandrogenaemia, and profound menstrual and ovulatory dysfunction with consequent sub-fertility. A clustering of metabolic aberrations is commonly associated with this condition and these include insulin resistance, disordered lipid metabolism and chronic low-grade inflammation. Overweight and obesity, as well as a degree of adipose tissue dysfunction, are present in a large proportion of women with PCOS, and where present, magnify the inherent hyperandrogenaemia characteristic of the condition, in addition to worsening the metabolic profile. Diet and lifestyle interventions are among the first-line treatments for PCOS, and weight reduction through energy restriction has been shown to exert positive influences on both metabolic and hormonal aspects of this condition. Alterations in carbohydrate amount and type have also been investigated, and more recently, dietary fatty acids, with a particular emphasis on PUFA, have been shown to have a positive impact within this population group. Although it is likely that diet is not the root cause of PCOS, it represents a modifiable variable with the potential to improve the health of women with this condition. Work to date has provided insights into the role of diet in PCOS; however, further work is required to determine the role of nutrients specifically within the context of PCOS, in order to develop more effective, evidence-based dietary guidelines for this condition.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Professor Helen M. Roche, fax: +35 3171 66701, email


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