Restoration of reproductive potential by lifestyle modification in obese polycystic ovary syndrome: role of insulin sensitivity and luteinizing hormone

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 Apr;84(4):1470-4. doi: 10.1210/jcem.84.4.5596.


Weight reduction and exercise have been shown to help with menstrual disturbance and infertility in obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. We studied the relationship between insulin sensitivity and ovulation patterns in 18 infertile anovulatory obese polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) women (NO) with normal glucose tolerance, aged between 22-39 yr with a body mass index of 27-45 kg/m2, before and after a 6-month diet and exercise program. This program promotes healthy lifestyle factors, but does not lead to rapid weight loss. The anthropometric, metabolic, and endocrine factors of these subjects were compared to those of 10 age- and weight-matched PCOS women with regular monthly ovulation (RO). Before lifestyle modification, the anovulatory subjects had greater central obesity than regular ovulators, as assessed by percent central fat (NO, 45.7 +/- 0.8%; RO, 42.2 +/- 1.6%; P < 0.05), higher glucose increment after glucose challenge (NO, 10.1 +/- 1.0 mmol/L; RO, 6.4 +/- 1.1 mmol/L; P < 0.02), lower insulin sensitivity index (NO, 1.2 +/- 0.2; RO, 2.8 +/- 0.6 micromol/kg x min/pmol/L; P < 0.005), higher plasma LH (NO, 8.9 +/- 0.9; RO, 4.6 +/- 0.9 IU/L; P < 0.005), and lower plasma sex hormone-binding globulin (NO, 18.0 +/- 2.5; RO, 27.8 +/- 5.7 nmol/L; P < 0.05]. Anovulatory subjects were classified as responders (R) to the intervention if they regained ovulation during the study. As a result of intervention, R showed an 11% reduction in central fat, a 71% improvement in insulin sensitivity index, a 33% fall in fasting insulin levels, and a 39% reduction in LH levels. None of these parameters changed significantly in nonresponders (NR). At the end of the study, R had lower fasting insulin (R, 13.6 +/- 1.7; NR, 23.0 +/- 3.5 mU/L) and LH levels (R, 5.0 +/- 1.7; NR, 7.4 +/- 1.4 IU/L), but similar androgen levels compared to NR. We conclude that lifestyle modification without rapid weight loss leads to a reduction of central fat and improved insulin sensitivity, which restores ovulation in overweight infertile women with PCOS. Lifestyle modification is the best initial management for obese women seeking to improve their reproductive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Life Style*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Ovulation
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproduction*
  • Weight Loss


  • Insulin
  • Luteinizing Hormone