The role of nutrition and insulin in the regulation of sex hormone binding globulin

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1991 Nov;39(5B):835-8. doi: 10.1016/0960-0760(91)90033-2.


In an analysis of 263 women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), 91 (35%) of whom were obese (body mass index greater than 25 kg/m2), it was found that obese women with PCOS were more likely to be anovulatory and had a higher prevalence of hirsutism than the non-obese subgroup. Although serum concentrations of gonadotrophins, androstenedione and total testosterone were similar in obese and lean women with PCO, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels were significantly lower, and free testosterone correspondingly higher, in obese women. Serum concentrations of SHBG were inversely correlated with those of both fasting and glucose-stimulated insulin. A short-term, very-low-calorie diet resulted in a 2-fold increase in SHBG which was mirrored by a fall in serum insulin. Similar biochemical changes were also observed during a long-term (6-7 months) 1000 kcal diet and were associated with an improvement of menstrual function and fertility. This encourages the view that calorie restriction has an important part to play in the management of obese women with PCOS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / blood
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Hirsutism / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Menstruation
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism*
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / physiology
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Androgens
  • Insulin
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone