Adiponectin levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and a meta-analysis

Hum Reprod Update. 2009 May-Jun;15(3):297-307. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmp006. Epub 2009 Mar 4.


Background: Conflicting results regarding adiponectin levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have been reported. To evaluate adiponectin levels in PCOS, a systematic review of all studies comparing adiponectin levels in women with PCOS with healthy controls and a meta-analysis of those involving women with similar body mass index (BMI) were performed. The influence of possible effect modifiers, such as insulin resistance (IR) and testosterone, was investigated. The influence of obesity was investigated through a 'nested' meta-analysis after within-study BMI stratification and appropriate pooling.

Methods: Literature search was conducted through MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane CENTRAL (through June 2008), references from relevant studies and personal contact with the authors. Thirty-one studies, reporting data on 3469 subjects, were reviewed and 16 included in the main meta-analysis.

Results: Women with PCOS demonstrated significantly lower adiponectin values [weighted mean difference (95% confidence interval) -1.71 (-2.82 to -0.6), P < 10(-4)], yet with significant between-study heterogeneity. Lower adiponectin levels are associated with the IR observed in women with PCOS, compared with controls. IR, but not total testosterone, was found significant among biological parameters explored in the meta-regression model. Hypoadiponectinaemia was present in both lean and obese women with PCOS when compared with non-PCOS counterparts. Data on high molecular weight (HMW) adiponectin are limited (three studies).

Conclusions: After controlling for BMI-related effects, adiponectin levels seem to be lower in women with PCOS compared with non-PCOS controls. Low levels of adiponectin in PCOS are probably related to IR but not to testosterone. Total adiponectin should not be used as a biomarker of PCOS severity. Further investigation is needed for HMW adiponectin levels in PCOS.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / blood*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Regression Analysis
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Adiponectin
  • Testosterone