PCOS and Weight Loss: Why You're Fat

Do you find it nearly impossible to lose weight, even if you're on a diet? Are you carrying far more weight than your friends and family, even though you eat the same things and do the same activities? This is a typical problem for women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Here are a few possible reasons why you may be overweight:

  • You have "thrifty genes"
  • Biochemical imbalances disrupting fat metabolism and appetite
  • Glandular disorders such as hypothyroidism
  • Excessive calories in your diet
  • Lack of daily physical activity and exercise
  • Chronic stress
  • Unhealthy food choices
  • Certain medications
  • Eating disorders like binge eating, bulimia, or overeating

Chances are, you have more than one of the above problems. In combination, they are causing you to gain weight, or have trouble shedding weight. But more fat on the body makes PCOS symptoms worse – so it’s critical that we start to address weight loss in a way that works for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

It can be endlessly frustrating to carefully control your diet, and get plenty of exercise, but still gain weight or be unable to lose weight. Especially when your family and friends seem to eat with impunity and stay relatively thin!

This problem was described in a report from the University of Pittsburgh. They studied two groups of lean women: one group had PCOS, the other did not. The study revealed that there was almost no difference in their dietary consumption, but the women with polycystic ovary syndrome were more likely to be overweight.

Even worse, when lean PCOS women were compared to "normal" lean women, the researchers discovered that the lean women consumed fewer calories. This means the women with polycystic ovarian syndrome were able to maintain their weight with fewer calories. Talk about unfair! So it's no surprise that with PCOS you will gain more weight in spite of eating the same number of calories as another person.

Why are bodies with polycystic ovary syndrome so efficient at converting calories into fat? Or maintaining their weight with fewer calories than normal women? There are several factors, and your genes play a big role.

Are "Thrifty Genes" a Culprit in PCOS?

Most researchers think the polycystic ovary syndrome is at least partly caused by the set of genes you were born with. As a woman who has PCOS, your genetic pattern is somewhat different compared to other women.

Recent genetic research suggests that polycystic ovary syndrome is partially the result of "thrifty" genes, which provide advantages in times of shortage of nutrition. These advantages include increased muscular strength, more abdominal fat, and reduced insulin sensitivity, which is a body-building, energy-conserving inclination.

However, these thrifty genes no longer useful, because famines and food shortages are long gone! Everywhere you look, there is something delicious or appetizing to eat. Your thrifty genes have no way to cope with this abundance. Your genes are busily and thriftily storing away fat calories for a rainy day that is never going to come.

Related Articles

Wright, CE et al, Dietary intake, physical activity, and obesity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, Int J Obes Relat Metab Discord, 2004, 28(8):1026-32
Holte, J, Polycystic ovary syndrome and insulin resistance: thrifty genes struggling with over-feeding and sedentary life style?, J Endocrinol Invest, 1998, 21(9):589-601
San Millan, S et al, Association of the polycystic ovary syndrome with genomic variants related to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and obesity, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2004, 89(6):2640-6
Friedman JM, A war on obesity, not the obese. Science. 2003 Feb 7;299(5608):856-8

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