Metabolic consequences of obesity and insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome: diagnostic and methodological challenges

Nutr Res Rev. 2017 Jun;30(1):97-105. doi: 10.1017/S0954422416000287. Epub 2017 Feb 22.


Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a considerable risk of metabolic dysfunction. This review aims to present contemporary knowledge on obesity, insulin resistance and PCOS with emphasis on the diagnostic and methodological challenges encountered in research and clinical practice. Variable diagnostic criteria for PCOS and associated phenotypes are frequently published. Targeted searches were conducted to identify all available data concerning the association of obesity and insulin resistance with PCOS up to September 2016. Articles were considered if they were peer reviewed, in English and included women with PCOS. Obesity is more prevalent in women with PCOS, but studies rarely reported accurate assessments of adiposity, nor split the study population by PCOS phenotypes. Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, though there is considerable variation reported in part due to not distinguishing subgroups known to have an impact on insulin resistance as well as limited methodology to measure insulin resistance. Inflammatory markers are positively correlated with androgen levels, but detailed interactions need to be identified. Weight management is the primary therapy; specific advice to reduce the glycaemic load of the diet and reduce the intake of pro-inflammatory SFA and advanced glycation endproducts have provided promising results. It is important that women with PCOS are educated about their increased risk of metabolic complications in order to make timely and appropriate lifestyle modifications. Furthermore, well-designed robust studies are needed to evaluate the mechanisms behind the improvements observed with dietary interventions.

Keywords: AGEs advanced glycation endproducts; GI glycaemic index; GL glycaemic load; IGT impaired glucose tolerance; IR insulin resistance; NAFLD non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; PCOS polycystic ovary syndrome; T2DM type 2 diabetes mellitus; VAI visceral adiposity index; Polycystic ovary syndrome: Obesity: Diabetes: Insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Glucose Intolerance / complications
  • Glucose Intolerance / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / epidemiology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Metabolic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / epidemiology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Phenotype
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / classification
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Risk Factors