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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and the benefits of weight loss

In December 2016, I was invited to present the results of my research on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at the Royal Society of Medicine during the Nutrition Society Winter Conference 2016.

PCOS is a common hormonal disorder - almost 1 in 5 woman suffers from it to an certain extent. Although PCOS is the result of a hormonal imbalance, it takes many forms and not every women will have the same type of symptoms. Some will have only infrequent menses or not at all; some will have high levels of male hormones, with or without clinical symptoms such as facial hair, recess hair line, acne; others will have traces of immature follicles on their ovaries known as polycystic ovaries.

The severity of these symptoms varies a lot and for some women it hugely impacts on their life, in particular with their ability to conceive. But what is interesting is that PCOS severity increases with BMI. In other word, carrying extra weight is believed to make all the symptoms worse. And since there is no cure to PCOS, the current recommendation for overweight women suffering from PCOS is to lose weight...Easier said then done, right? And it is believe to be even harder for women with PCOS who tend to present many physiological and psychological barriers to weight loss, linked to the syndrome.

In my research, I specifically focussed on eating behaviours within a population of obese women with PCOS and highlighted a few predictive factors such as a 'history of weight cycling' and 'emotional eating habits' to binge eating behaviour. Yet today, women with PCOS are rarely given more support than a simple recommendation to lose weight.

My findings support the idea that to truly help women with PCOS and their symptoms and their weight loss, we need to include a more in-depth understanding of the patient, their eating behaviours and their diet experience, and provide robust nutrition coaching - from a registered nutritionist or a dietitian - in order to avoid yoyo-dieting.

So if you suffer from PCOS and want to lose weight, seek help from a professional who will provide you with the right guidance, support and knowledge you need and make your weight loss programme a success.

For more information, my abstract is published in the Proceedings of Nutrition Society and can be view here.

And here is my presentation to the Nutrition Society Winter Conference:

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