Women with the fertility condition polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.
A Danish study also showed women with PCOS are more likely to be diagnosed earlier too.
Whilst the research shows women with PCOS to be at higher risk, type 2 diabetes is preventable. Some simple lifestyle changes can help to reduce the risk of diabetes developing and minimize the symptoms of PCOS.
The trial set out to investigate the relationship between the two conditions so the team studied the medical records of more than 19,000 women with PCOS, who were premenopausal.
PCOS is thought to affect about one in five people in the UK. Some of the symptoms can include irregular periods, weight gain, acne or excess hair on the face and body. This is because those with the condition have higher levels of male hormones.
Corresponding author Dr Dorte Glintborg, from the Department of Endocrinology at the Odense University Hospital, said: “In this study, we found that the risk of developing diabetes is four times greater and that diabetes is diagnosed four years earlier in women with PCOS compared to controls.”
Insulin resistance is quite common in women who have PCOS. During the trial, participants had their glucose, triglycerides, testosterone and cholesterol levels measured to compare against women who do not have PCOS. The measurements were compared with other women of a similar age who do not have type 2 diabetes or PCOS.
The findings showed those with PCOS were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on average aged 31 and those who did not have the condition were told they had diabetes aged 35.
Dr Glintborg added: “The increased risk of developing T2D [type 2 diabetes] in PCOS is an important finding […] Diabetes may develop at a young age and screening for diabetes is important, especially in women who are obese and have PCOS.”
Although they found links between the women’s insulin and triglyceride levels, the researchers said the measurements of Body Mass Index (BMI) and glucose levels were the most reliable predictors of type 2 diabetes.
The team now want to further investigate how taking oral contraceptives and birthing numbers can impact the type 2 diabetes risk in those who have PCOS.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through making simple lifestyle changes which can be beneficial for PCOS too. These simple changes are outlined within the Low Carb Program which is helpful for people with or at risk of type 2 diabetes.
The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology &Metabolism.

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