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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome linked to Type 2 Diabetes Risk

September 4, 2012 in News

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a very common hormonal disorder that affects between 5 and 10 percent of all women. In PCOS, the “female” hormones estrogen and progesterone are out of balance with the “male” hormone androgen, and this imbalance can cause infertility, irregular menstrual cycles, and small cysts in a woman’s ovaries. Similar to diabetes, weight seems to be linked to the condition, and weight management is one of the most important factors in managing the condition.

Insulin resistance is thought to be one of the factors that can contribute to the development of PCOS. When cells become resistant to insulin, the pancreas secretes more insulin to try to compensate. Excess levels of insulin are thought to cause the ovaries to produce more androgen.

There seem to be other links between PCOS and Type 2 diabetes as well. The journal Diabetes recently published an article by Alessandra Gambineri, MD, and her colleagues from the University of Bologna, that reported that middle aged women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study followed 255 women with PCOS for an average of 16.9 years. They found that the rate of diabetes among the participant was 39.3 percent, significantly higher than the rate for Italian females of the same age without PCOS – 5.8 percent. A high BMI was one of the most significant factors associated with increased risk for developing diabetes.

High levels of a protein called “sex hormone-binding globulin” were linked to a decreased risk of diabetes among the participants. Sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) binds to hormones to transport them around the body. The exact relationship between this protein and other hormones is still unclear, but research suggests that insulin and dietary factors, as well as the balance between “male” and “female” sex hormones, can influence SHBG levels.

What we do know is that SHBG hangs on to androgen; the more SHBG, the less free androgen is available to body tissues. In a condition like PCOS, where excess production of androgen leads to problematic symptoms, high levels of SHBG can reduce the androgen’s impact on the body.

The more we research the relationships among hormones in the body, the more we discover how complicated these relationships are. One hormone out of balance can have a domino effect, influencing the balances of numerous other systems

You can read more about PCOS through the National Institutes of Health, including symptoms, what tests are involved in diagnosing the condition, and what treatments are available. The Mayo Clinic also has a page that provides information on symptoms, causes, and complications.

Lab Tests Online has a good explanation of sex-hormone binding globulin, as well as information on what to expect if you need to have your levels of protein checked.

The abstract for the article published in Diabetes can be accessed through the American Diabetes Association website.

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