It can be difficult to manage your weight when you have PCOS. Below you will find information on the influence of weight on PCOS symptoms, the benefits of preventing weight gain and different ways to manage weight loss.
Do women with PCOS have a greater risk of being overweight?
Benefits of weight loss with PCOS
Medical management & surgery for weight loss
Surgery to assist weight loss
Weight loss medications
Actions you can take
Loss of excess weight may reduce the severity of some symptoms and will reduce the risk of developing further complications associated with PCOS. Even a small weight loss can reap large benefits.
It is currently not clear if there are any biological factors that could lead to women with PCOS having more difficulties with weight management. However, research has suggested that hormones involved in controlling appetite and hunger aren't regulated properly in some women with PCOS. If this is the case, it may mean that some women with PCOS are more likely to gain weight and have more difficulty losing weight.
Modest weight loss will not cure PCOS, but it will help. Weight loss can restore the normal function of the ovaries and result in normal hormone production. This may in turn lead to improvements in symptoms of PCOS, such as excess facial and body hair growth, acne or scalp hair loss.
A large number of research studies have shown it only takes a modest amount of weight loss of 5-10 kg or 5-10% of initial body weight to:
Weight loss is best achieved through a combination of lifestyle changes – a healthy diet and physical activity. It is not always easy to make changes to your lifestyle so that you eat more healthy foods and make exercise a regular part of life. Learning and understanding about goal setting can be helpful along with how to make changes to your behaviour. For further information and advice, talk to an accredited practising dietitian (APD) and/or your doctor
Some women with PCOS may need medical assistance to help with weight loss.
The effect of obesity surgery has been assessed in women who have PCOS. Weight loss surgery is generally only considered if you meet certain criteria including:
There are two main types of surgical procedures:
Surgical procedures improve many of the symptoms of PCOS however there are some things to consider including:
As yet, there is no evidence that weight loss medications are any better than having a healthy lifestyle. They are generally expensive, only work whilst being taken, lead only to small weight loss and have side effects. Sibutramine (sold as Reductil) has been withdrawn from the market in many countries including Australia due to concerns about it increasing the risk of stroke or cardiovascular disease. Liraglutide (Saxenda) is an injectable medication that has recently been approved by the Therapuetic Goods Administration, but is expensive and so far there is limited information about long term use.
Talking with your doctor and also understanding what influences weight change for you will help you to make decisions about what is the best way of managing your weight. You may like to speak with a psychologist, dietitian or exercise physiologist who may be able to help you with changes to the way you think about eating and activity. Further information on managing a healthy weight is also available here.
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at April 2017.