Weight management crucial in PCOS


25 Aug 2015

Weight management should be part of the conversation in managing women with PCOS, regardless of whether they are overweight says the recipient of this year’s ESA Mid-Career Research Award.

Accredited Practising Dietitian Dr Lisa Moran from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute and Monash University’s Monash Centre for Health Research Implementation has taken out this year’s award for a decade of work in polycystic ovary syndrome.

Summarising her achievements at the ESA-SRB Annual Scientific Meeting here in Adelaide Dr Moran highlighted the importance of weight management as a treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

“I see this as being a really key component of PCOS treatment,” she stressed, pointing out that the 2011 Australian evidence-based guideline for PCOS nominated weight management through lifestyle interventions as a first-line treatment, even before progressing to fertility or pharmacological treatments.

Dr Moran defines weight management not only as losing weight but also maintaining weight loss and preventing weight gain in people who are already a healthy weight.

She says weight management is key to treating insulin resistance, an important aetiological feature of PCOS present in up to 80% of women with the condition.

“When women with PCOS gain weight or are overweight then the insulin resistance will worsen their reproductive features and their risk factors for other conditions even more so,” she told the limbic.

Weight loss has been shown to improve insulin resistance in women with PCOS and the general population. If a 5-10% weight loss is achieved then a whole range of health benefits result, including reproductive, metabolic and psychological features of PCOS, said Dr Moran.

But weight loss is difficult for most people, and possibly even more so for women with PCOS due to suspected underlying hormonal or psychological issues, although it’s still not clear if this is the case.

This is why Dr Moran believes focusing on the prevention of weight gain is crucial. “We’re trying to broaden the scope of PCOS management to be part of the conversation in all women with PCOS, even if they are a healthy weight,” she told the limbic.

Reflecting on her career so far, Dr Moran noted that she was a key member of the team who produced the PCOS guideline, the world’s first accessible evidence-based guideline for the condition.

She also acknowledged ESA President Professor Helena Teede, from Monash University, and Professor Robert Norman, from the University of Adelaide, as being instrumental in getting the guideline across the line, and says the team continues to work with different groups and specialities to translate the PCOS guideline as widely as possible, including talking to international bodies.

Looking ahead, Dr Moran hopes to find ways to streamline treatment options for women with PCOS to make it easier for them to lose weight and maintain weight loss. She’s also very interested in investigating the pathophysiology of why women with PCOS might have more difficulties with weight management.

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