- PCOS can make it hard to lose weight because of insulin resistance and inflammation.
- Losing weight can help reduce the symptoms of PCOS in people who are overweight.
- If you want to lose fat, try strength training and eating complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common hormonal disorder in women of reproductive age, and can affect both ovulation and the hormones that play a role in metabolism.
People with PCOS often have cysts on their ovaries and produce higher than normal levels of testosterone. Symptoms include facial hair, irregular periods, acne, and difficulty losing weight.
Not all people who have PCOS are overweight or obese, but losing weight can help reduce symptoms in those who are, Dr Channa Jayasena, a consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Imperial College and Hammersmith Hospital, UK, told Insider.
It’s unclear why weight loss helps, but Dr Stephen Franks, professor of reproductive endocrinology at Imperial College London, told Insider there’s evidence it helps to balance hormone levels and improve ovulation.
For those who want to lose some fat, Insider spoke to three experts for some advice.
Why losing weight can be harder if you have PCOS
The two main reasons people with PCOS may struggle with their weight are insulin resistance and inflammation, Jodie Relf, a dietitian who specializes in PCOS, told Insider.
Low grade chronic inflammation can leave some people feeling exhausted, making it harder to exercise or prepare healthy meals, she said.
Insulin resistance is when cells are not as responsive as they should be to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. This can make the brain think you haven’t eaten enough food, causing hunger even after eating.
An excess of insulin caused by insulin resistance leads the body to store fat, particularly around the abdomen, Relf said.
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While weight loss can help, the common weight loss advice of “eat less and move more” is not generally helpful for people with PCOS, according to dietitian and PCOS weight loss specialist Tallene Hacatoryan.
“Restrictive eating and over-exercising actually creates a blood sugar roller coaster, which is counter-productive when trying to manage insulin resistance,” she said.