Impact of obstructive sleep apnea on insulin resistance and glucose tolerance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Oct;93(10):3878-84. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-0925. Epub 2008 Jul 22.


Context: Insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, and type 2 diabetes are common in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been linked to metabolic dysfunction. We studied women with and without PCOS to determine the extent to which OSA is responsible for insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in PCOS.

Methods: In a prospective design, 52 women with PCOS and 21 women without PCOS of similar age and body mass index had an overnight polysomnogram and a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test.

Results: Twenty-nine women (56%) with PCOS had OSA compared with four controls (19%) (adjusted odds ratio 7.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-45.7; P = 0.01). PCOS women with OSA were more insulin resistant than those without OSA [homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) index 5.7 +/- 0.4 vs. 3.5 +/- 0.4; P = 0.006] after controlling for age, body mass index, and ethnicity. Impaired glucose tolerance was found in 16 of 29 (55%) PCOS women with OSA and only six of 23 (26%) of those without OSA (unadjusted P = 0.049). Insulin resistance and glucose intolerance were highly correlated with the presence and severity of OSA. Among PCOS women with normal glucose tolerance, the presence of OSA was associated with a nearly 2-fold higher fasting insulin level and HOMA index. The severity of OSA was a highly significant predictor of the fasting concentrations of glucose and insulin as well as the 2-h glucose concentration and HOMA index.

Conclusions: OSA is a highly prevalent and important determinant of insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and type 2 diabetes in PCOS.

Trial registration: NCT00203996.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / blood
  • Glucose Intolerance / complications*
  • Glucose Intolerance / metabolism
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / blood
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / metabolism
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / blood
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / metabolism

Associated data