Obesity is a common occurrence in people with polycystic ovary syndrome. This may be partly due to insulin resistance, which often results from the condition. Medication, changes in eating habits, and regular exercise can help reduce obesity.

Polycystic ovary syndrome or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects 1 in 10 people who were assigned female at birth. People with PCOS experience metabolism issues and hormonal imbalances that affect their overall health. It is also a common cause of infertility.

Not everyone with PCOS will have obesity. However, obesity and weight gain are common symptoms of the condition.

This article further discusses the connection between PCOS and obesity. It also explains how obesity affects PCOS and how to manage it. Finally, it looks at the symptoms and treatment for PCOS.

Researchers agree that there are strong links between PCOS and obesity. Between 38–88% of people with PCOS have overweight or obesity.

The exact link between PCOS and obesity is unknown. However, studies have shown that there are several mechanisms that can mediate the effects of weight gain on PCOS. These include insulin resistance and the effects that higher levels of insulin in the blood can have on the body.

The studies also state that weight gain and obesity play a part in the development of PCOS. However, PCOS can also play a role in further weight gain and affect a person’s ability to lose weight.

Some experts believe more research is needed on the connection between obesity and PCOS.

Learn more about PCOS.

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Obesity can exacerbate many symptoms of PCOS. This includes insulin resistance, blood glucose levels, and reproductive issues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. While BMI is a common screening tool to diagnose obesity, it is not a measure of a person’s overall health.

People with PCOS are also at higher risk of developing other medical conditions. These include:

Obesity can increase a person’s risk of developing these conditions even more. It can also worsen these conditions if someone already has them.

Learn about PCOS and diabetes.

Weight management resources

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Doctors agree that obesity is a serious issue among people with PCOS. However, some studies suggest that further research and education on how to manage obesity with PCOS is needed.

Currently, the first line of treatment for obesity in those with PCOS is lifestyle changes. This includes changing how a person eats and increasing levels of physical activity. Many doctors recommend people see a dietitian as well.

Another common treatment to manage obesity in PCOS is a medication called metformin. Metformin is a medication that doctors often prescribe to treat type 2 diabetes. It is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat PCOS.

However, doctors often prescribe Metformin off-label to help manage PCOS insulin resistance. Off-label means using medication to treat a condition the FDA has not officially approved it for.

Metformin can help lower both insulin and androgen levels. Research shows it to have positive effects on reducing body mass and improving cholesterol levels.

Learn how to lower insulin levels.

Not everyone with PCOS will experience the same symptoms. However, common initial symptoms include:

Other symptoms may include:

Learn more about PCOS symptoms.

Lifestyle changes and metformin are two common first-line treatments for PCOS. Other treatments focus on managing various symptoms. These treatments may include:

Speak with a doctor about other treatment options that may be available based on symptoms experienced.

Learn about natural treatments for PCOS here.

Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH, has reviewed frequently asked questions about PCOS and obesity.

Does obesity cause PCOS?

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown. However, according to some research, it is possible that weight gain and obesity can contribute to the development of PCOS. On the other hand, PCOS can also contribute to weight gain and obesity.

How common is obesity in PCOS?

Obesity affects approximately 38–88% of people with PCOS, according to some research.

What does a PCOS belly look like?

The term PCOS belly refers to excess fat that accumulates in the abdomen, causing an increased waist-to-hip ratio. This belly may look more like an apple shape than a pear shape. Excess fat accumulation in the abdomen is typical with PCOS.

There is a connection between obesity and PCOS. Many people with PCOS also have obesity.

However, It is unclear whether obesity causes PCOS or if PCOS leads to weight gain that can cause obesity. But, for many people, the two are connected.

Management of obesity with PCOS often includes lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity and changing how a person eats. A doctor may also recommend metformin to help balance insulin levels and aid in weight loss.

Speak with a doctor about treatment options and any concerns about PCOS or obesity.