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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)--the long-term implications.

It is well recognised that polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrinopathy in women in their reproductive years, affecting 5-10% of this segment of the population.

The current diagnosis of PCOS is based on the Rotterdam consensus statement 2003, (1) and is based on three main criteria:

* oligo- or anovulation

* clinical or biochemical signs of hyperandrogenism (with exclusion of congenital adrenal hyperplasia, Cushing's syndrome, androgen-secreting tumours, thyroid abnormalities and hyperprolactinaemia)

* polycystic ovaries on ultrasound.

To diagnose PCOS, and bearing in mind that it is a syndrome and does not exist as a single symptom, two of the three criteria must be present.

When a woman presents with PCOS, clinicians usually concentrate on treating infertility if she desires a pregnancy. Since PCOS has recently been recognised as an endocrinopathy with metabolic disturbances, it is appropriate to modify the goal of treatment, which is to prevent the long-term effects. PCOS is associated with an array of metabolic disturbances (hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance, dyslipidaemia, hypertension and cardiovascular disease) as well as an increased risk of neoplasia in affected patients who are not managed appropriately. (2)

It has been established that several factors influence the presentation of PCOS. Diet and lifestyle may play a role. (3)


Environmental factors are also significant in the pathogenesis. Fetal undernutrition results in intrauterine growth adaptation and increases the prevalence of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus in later life. (4) This finding is based on the Barker hypothesis. Barker and Clark demonstrated in 1997 that size at birth is related to the risk of developing disease in later life. In particular, connections between reduced birth weight, increased risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and stroke in adulthood are well established. (5) These relationships are modified by patterns of postnatal growth. The most widely accepted mechanisms thought to cause these relationships are those of fetal programming by nutritional stimuli or excess fetal glucocorticoid exposure. It has been suggested that the fetus makes physiological adaptations in response to changes in its environment to prepare itself for postnatal life. These changes may include epigenetic modification of gene expression. Currently, active research in this field will have direct relevance to future obstetric practices.

Today's challenge

It is clear that gynaecologists need to be aware of the long-term complications in their patients, and to pay attention to modifiable factors. They should have a holistic approach to patients with PCOS and not only deal with their reproductive issues such as menstrual dysfunction, complaints of hyperandrogenism, and infertility.

Evidence-based medicine should be the cornerstone of clinical practice. Appropriately designed longitudinal studies are usually not available, and most of the available information on the risks and prevalence of long-term outcomes of PCOS depends on case-series reports, non-randomised studies using historical controls, and non-randomised studies with a concurrent control group.

According to the work of Norman and colleagues, it is very important to obtain a family history, since insulin resistance is common in apparently unaffected relatives of women with PCOS. (6) Events in the patient's own intrauterine period should be recorded if available. Environmental factors and the patient's lifestyle should be taken into consideration.

Long-term risks

Hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is defined as the body's inability to deal with a normal glucose load or the inability of insulin to exert its physiological effect. This is a problem in obese and non-obese women with PCOS. (2) Dahlgren did a follow-up on women for 11 years and demonstrated that women with PCOS are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Insulin increases the action of luteinising hormone (LH) on theca cells, resulting in overproduction of androgens. The overall result of hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance on the ovaries is that of anovulation and the appearance of acanthosis nigricans owing to hyperandrogenic effects on the skin and abnormal hepatic function, especially decreased sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), resulting in increased free bio-available testosterone. (7)

Insulin resistance seems to be more than just a marker for future diabetic risk--it is also significant in the pathophysiology of PCOS and cardiovascular risks.

Reaven (8) described syndrome X, also known as metabolic syndrome, which is characterised by lipid abnormalities, hypertension, central obesity and abnormalities in glucose dynamics. It is frequently evident that PCOS and metabolic syndrome coexist in the same patient. Glueck et al. (9) reported a 46% prevalence of metabolic syndrome in women with PCOS, compared with 23% in the general population over the age of 20 years.

Given the significant morbidity and mortality risk, the importance of screening all women with PCOS for these associated diseases and assuring further management (10) is again illustrated.


Obesity is a complex problem with far-reaching effects and serious health implications. Associated with obesity is an increased risk of psychosocial impairment, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea, and uterine cancer. (11) The significant impact that all these conditions can have on our economy is notable.

A range of research methods is available for precise measurement of the amount and localisation of fat and lean mass, e.g. skinfold thickness, underwater weighing, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and infrared spectroscopy. However, a simple and reliable definition of obesity is needed for the clinical setting. Body mass index (BMI) is a useful clinical tool that correlates well with adiposity (Table I). (12)

The well-known classification adapted from the work of JC Seidell in 1995 is used in the clinical setting to help establish the risk of co-morbidity. (13)

The waist-hip ratio is an easy and practical tool to use. It provides a reasonable estimate of abdominal fat without distinguishing between visceral or subcutaneous fat. (14) A ratio ?0.8 in women and 0.9 in men indicates an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. (15)

In 2001, Dobbelsteyn et al. (16) suggested another clinical measuring tool--waist circumference (Table II), which is measured midway between the lowest rib and the iliac crest. It predicts risk of metabolic complications associated with obesity. If a patient falls in the increased risk group, this finding should alert the clinician to the potential risk of cardiovascular disease. If a patient falls in the substantially increased risk group, therapeutic action should be initiated. (17)

According to a local report by the Medical Research Council (MRC), obesity is becoming an enormous problem. (18) This study by Puoane et al. revealed that the situation in South Africa is similar to the American epidemic.

In a sample of 7 726 South African women aged 15-95 years, black women had the highest prevalence of obesity, followed by women of mixed ancestry, with white women in the third position. Indian women had a prevalence of 48.9%. Urban women had a slightly higher BMI compared with their rural counterparts; BMI in both groups was found to increase with age. (18)

The African continent is known for malnutrition; however, the picture is changing (Table III). Obesity is not only a problem of developed nations but is also becoming an increasing problem in countries undergoing epidemiological transition, such as South Africa, Mexico and South America. (18) In South Africa, where malnutrition, poverty and epidemic infectious disease are widespread, the problem of obesity could be viewed as less pressing. According to these current statistics, however, a significant problem of overnutrition in adults and young women exists; urban black women are at greatest risk.

Different abdominal fat regions may additionally confer differing risks, with evidence suggesting that abdominal visceral fat correlates more strongly with insulin resistance and markers of metabolic syndrome, whereas subcutaneous fat has a far lower risk profile. This observation was confirmed by Yamashita et al. (20)

In a study by Hartz et al., (21) it was found that the relative risk of irregular menstruation and oligomenorrhoea in women with upper body fat predominance was 1.56 and 2.29 respectively, compared with women with lower body fat predominance.

Further studies are needed to distinguish between the effects of visceral and subcutaneous fat.

The link between obesity and infertility is complex. In addition to altered gonadotrophin levels, obese women exhibit varied reproductive hormone profiles; (22) they have increased serum androgen levels, especially testosterone and androstenedione, as well as reduced SHBG levels.

Extensive work by Pasquali et al., (23) Seidell et al. (24) and Holte et al. (25,26) demonstrated that abdominal fat is related to decreased SHBG and increased androgenicity.

Convincing evidence (23,25,27,28) exists to confirm the strong association between obesity, abdominal obesity and insulin resistance. Increased androgen production and reduced binding of androgens to SHBG contributes to hyperandrogenism, resulting in anovulation through inhibition of follicle maturation.

Work by Poretsky and Kalin (29) and by Plymate et al. (30) indicates that hyperinsulinaemia increases ovarian androgen production and decreases SHBG, with significant effect on PCOS. A study by Dunaif et al. (7) supported that insulin resistance is consistently documented in lean and obese women when compared with weight-matched controls. Obesity and abdominal obesity may therefore contribute to the already altered hormonal profile of women with PCOS, with a further increase in the prevalence of anovulation, menstrual irregularities and infertility.

Other systems affected

It has become apparent that PCOS is associated with multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The risk factors include hypertension, dyslipidaemia, coagulation abnormalities, endothelial dysfunction and hyperhomocysteinaemia. (31)

Bengtsson et al. (32) published their findings on lipid abnormalities in women with PCOS. This study took place in Gothenburg over 20 years and demonstrated that an increased serum triglyceride concentration and central obesity is associated with an increase in mortality. Work by Robinson et al. (33) and Wild (34) confirmed these findings that an abnormal lipid profile can ultimately influence morbidity in the long term.

Dahlgren (2) reviewed women with PCOS over a period of decades and found that hypertension was a common diagnosis among women with PCOS. Another study from Amsterdam (35) confirmed the presence of hypertension in women with PCOS and linked it to the presence of obesity in ageing women with PCOS.

Evidence has shown that disruption or alteration of coagulation and fibrinolytic factors in PCOS may affect cardiovascular risk. A study on endothelial function by Talbott et al. (36) suggested that endothelin-1, as an indicator of vasculopathy, is elevated in PCOS. Current opinion supports the view that plasminogen activator and vascular reactivity implicate PCOS in the evolution of cardiovascular disease. (37)

A buzzword of the new millennium was homocysteinaemia, and the work of Loverro et al. (38) published in 2002 demonstrated hyperhomocysteinaemia in women with PCOS, which may lead to increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Homocysteine levels appear to vary with ethnicity and correlate with insulin levels. (31) Diastolic dysfunction, in association with hyperhomocysteinaemia, are risk factors contributing to cardiovascular risk. (39)

Birdsall et al. (40) demonstrated clinical evidence of an association between cardiovascular disease and PCOS. In this study, women <60 years underwent coronary angiography, and 42% were found to have PCOS. These women also had associated hirsutism, increased testosterone and abnormal lipid profiles. The extent of their coronary artery disease was also far worse than that of unaffected patients. These results suggested that PCOS carries a risk for coronary artery disease. It remains important to be aware of these risk factors but to bear in mind that they do not have a predictive value.

Cancer risk

Women with PCOS have a risk of developing a hormone-dependent carcinoma. (41) Undoubtedly, they have an increased risk for endometrial carcinoma owing to unopposed oestrogen levels. (42) Risk for breast cancer and benign disease of the breast have not been confirmed. (43)

Dahlgren (2) and Hardiman et al. (44) advised that women known to have PCOS and subsequent anovulatory cycles should receive endometrial protection, and serial follow-up was advised to detect endometrial hyperplasia. Screening for endometrial hyperplasia has long been known to prevent progression to endometrial carcinoma. However, no good data are available to support the increased risk for breast cancer in women with PCOS. Most studies have failed to demonstrate a particular risk for breast cancer in these women with a hyperoestrogenic state. (45) Cattral and Healy (46) published a study, but their data did not support an increased risk for ovarian carcinoma in PCOS patients.


The mainstay of therapy is to treat obesity. This statement implies adequate weight loss as a precursor to pharmacological intervention. Reduction of visceral and abdominal fat will result in an improvement of menstrual function and lessened infertility, resulting in decreased metabolic risks. (47) Insulin resistance will also be reduced. (26) Women with PCOS need to be treated properly, in their reproductive years as well as in the postmenopausal period.

Weight reduction is no easy task. One needs to be realistic in planning this strategy. Each patient should be treated individually. It is of utmost importance that the patient is co-operative and motivated. Most women with obesity have a psychosocial barrier and need to be treated with respect and understanding. They need to understand the reason for this initial therapy and how their general health will benefit when losing the desired amount of weight.

One question is: how much weight loss is the goal? Hollmann et al. (48) as well as Clark and co-workers (47,49) showed that only a small amount of weight loss is needed for resumption of ovulatory function. As little as 2-5% reduction of body weight was associated with restoration of ovarian function, an 11% reduction of abdominal fat, a 4 cm waist circumference reduction and the added benefit of a 71% increase in insulin sensitivity. (47,49) It is therefore not necessary to lose large amounts of weight to regain reproductive function, and one can use this as a motivational tool. Metabolic risks will decrease, and the patient should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a few strategies for weight loss. (11) Initial management should involve dietary changes to restrict energy intake. Physical activities should be increased, which will lead to a decrease in visceral fat that is usually not altered by diet alone.

Behaviour modification includes the discussion of social habits, with special reference to smoking and alcohol consumption. Reduction of psychosocial stressors should also be attempted. These principles were applied in the Fertility Fitness Programme in Adelaide, Australia, (45) a programme involving weekly dietetic and psychological intervention in a group and multi-team approach for 6 months, with remarkable success. Weight loss of 6.2 kg was associated with restoration of ovulation in 12 previously anovulatory women and pregnancy in 11 women. A decrease in insulin resistance and testosterone was also observed.

The timeframe for patients to lose weight should be realistic and should be discussed with them. Wadden (50) showed in 1993 that short-term energy restriction can result in rapid weight loss with improvement of the reproductive symptoms--but 90% of women will regain the lost weight.

Lifestyle modifications are non-invasive and frequently successful, and should be the initial treatment. The NIH document (51) includes logical, multifaceted and easy-to-implement guidelines to assist in planning effective weight loss in patients with obesity (Table IV).

Pharmacotherapy and surgical options should only be considered if no success has been achieved with the above strategies. (52) Literature on the use of metformin to improve insulin sensitivity is becoming more available. Metformin acts primarily by inhibiting hepatic glucose output and increasing insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues. (53) In PCOS, metformin improves insulin resistance but also improves ovarian function, regulates cycles, lowers androgen levels and leads to an improvement in clinical hyperandrogenism. Some evidence seems promising regarding improved long-term outcomes, but unfortunately the studies are of short duration. (54) For future recommendations, more evidence is still needed.

Natural progression of PCOS

Dahlgren (2) and Elting et al. (35) focused especially on the natural history of PCOS. From this information, it was learned that, towards menopause, resumption of menstrual cyclicity is often experienced. Androgen levels tend to fall and, with ovarian ageing and follicle loss, lower levels of inhibin B are present as well as an increase in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). (55) Despite these improvements in the reproductive system, metabolic risks remain a problem. These risks are related to obesity rather than menstrual cycle patterns. There is a trend for insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia to worsen over time, even in the presence of declining androgen levels. (56)


The importance of lifestyle modification, with weight loss as the mainstay of therapy, cannot be over-emphasised. Emotional support and the effectiveness of group therapy are of the utmost importance. Lifestyle modification remains the initial treatment of women with PCOS, with proven benefits in terms of fertility and metabolic risk reduction.

The mere diagnosis of PCOS in women, regardless of whether pregnancy is desired or not, is not sufficient. Any woman at any age with PCOS should be appropriately managed, informed and assessed for metabolic risks.

(1.) The Rotterdam ESHRE/ASRM-sponsored PCOS Consensus Workshop Group. Revised 2003 consensus on diagnostic criteria and long term health risks related to polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril 2004; 81(1):19-25.

(2.) Dahlgren E, Johansson S, Lindstedt G, et al. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome wedge reselected in 1956 to 1965: A long-term follow-up focusing on natural history and circulating hormones. Fertil Steril 1992; 57: 505-551.

(3.) Balen AH, Conway GS, Kaltsas G, et al. Policystic ovary syndrome: The spectrum of the disorder in 1741 patients. Hum Reprod 1995; 10: 2107-2111.

(4.) de Boo HA, Harding JE. The developmental origins of adult disease (Barker) hypothesis. Aust N Z J Obstet Gyanecol 2006; 46(1): 4-14.

(5.) Law CM, Shiell AW. Is blood pressure inversely related to birth weight? The strength of evidence from a systematic review of the literature. J Hypertens 1996; 14: 935-941.

(6.) Norman RJ, Masters S, Hague W. Hyperinsulinemia is common in family members of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril 1996; 66: 942-947.

(7.) Dunaif A, Hoffman AR, Scully RE, et al. Clinical, biochemical and ovarian morphologic features in women with acanthosis nigricans and masculinization. Obstet Gynecol 1985; 66: 545-552.

(8.) Reaven GM. Role of insulin resistance in human disease. Diabetes 1988; 37: 1595-1607.

(9.) Glueck CJ, Papanna R, Wang P, et al. Incidence and treatment of metabolic syndrome in newly referred women with confirmed polycystic ovarian syndrome. Metabolism 2003; 52: 908-915.

(10.) Trevisan M, Liu J, Bahsas FB, et al. Syndrome X and mortality: A population-based study. Am J Epidemol 1998; 148: 958-966.

(11.) World Health Organization. Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1997.

(12.) World Health Organization. Physical Status: The Use and Interpretation of Anthropometry. WHO Technical Report Series, #854. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1995.

(13.) Seidell JC. Impact of obesity on health status: Some implications for health care costs. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1995; 9 (Suppl 6): S13-16.

(14.) Price GM, Uauy R, Breeze E, Bulpitt CJ, Fletcher AE. Weight, shape and mortality risk in older persons: elevated waist-hip ratio, not high body mass index, is associated with a greater risk of death. Am J Clin Nutr 2006; 84: 449-460.

(15.) Megnien JL, Denarie N, Cocaul M, Simon A, Levenson J. Predictive value of waist-to-hip ratio on cardiovascular risk events. Int J Obes 1999; 23: 90-97.

(16.) Dobbelsteyn CJ, Joffres MR, Maclean DR, Flowerdew G. A comparative evaluation of waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index as indicators of cardiovascular risk factors: The Canadian Heart Health Surveys. Int J Obes Metab Disord 2001; 25: 625-661.

(17.) Han TS, Van Leer EM, Seidell JC, Lean ME. Waist circumference action levels in the identification of cardiovascular risk factors: prevalence study in a random sample. BMJ 1995; 311: 1401-1405.

(18.) Puoane T, Steyn K, Bradshaw D, et al. Obesity in South Africa: the South African demographic and health survey. Obes Res 2002; 10: 1038-1048.

(19.) Obesity Task Force, World Health Organization. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health: Obesity and Overweight, 2005. docs/gs_obesity.pdf (accessed 15 June 2007).

(20.) Yamashita S, Nakamura T, Shimomura I, et al. Insulin resistance and body fat distribution. Diabetes Care 1996; 19: 287-291.

(21.) Hartz AJ, Rupley DC, Rimm AA. The association of girth measurements with disease in 32 856 women. Am J Epidemiol 1984; 119: 71-80.

(22.) Korhonen S, Hippelainen M. The androgenic sex hormone profile is an essential feature of metabolic syndrome in premenopausal women: a controlled community-based study. Fertil Steril 003; 79: 1327-1334.

(23.) Pasquali R, Casimirri F, Venturoli S, et al. Body fat distribution has weight-independent effects on clinical, hormonal, and metabolic features of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Metabolism 1994; 43: 706 -713.

(24.) Seidell JC, Cigolini M, Charzewska J, et al. Androgenicity in relation to body fat distribution and metabolism in 38-year-old women: The European Fat Distribution Study. J Clin Epidemiol 1990; 43: 21-34.

(25.) Holte J, Bergh T, Berne C, Berglund L, Lithell H. Enhanced early insulin response to glucose in relation to insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome and normal glucose tolerance. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1994; 78: 1052-1058.

(26.) Holte J, Bergh T, Berne C, Lithell H. Restored insulin sensitivity but persistently increased early insulin secretion after weight loss in women polycystic ovary syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1995; 80: 2586-2593.

(27.) Folsum AR, Kaye SA, Sellers TA, et al. Body fat distribution and 5-year risk of death in older women. JAMA 1993; 269: 483-487.

(28.) Hollmann M, Runnebaum B, Gerhard I. Impact of waist-hip-ratio and body-mass-index on hormonal and metabolic parameters in young obese women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 1997; 21: 476-483.

(29.) Poretsky L, Kalin MF. The gonadotropic function of insulin. Endocr Rev 1987; 8: 132-141.

(30.) Plymate SR, Matej LA, Jones ER, Freidl KE. Inhibition of sex hormone-binding globulin production in the human hepatoma (Hep G2) cell line by insulin and prolactin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1998; 67: 460-464.

(31.) Badawy A. Plasma homocysteine and polycystic ovary syndrome: The missed link. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2007; 131: 68-72.

(32.) Bengtsson C, Bjorkelund C, Lapidus L, et al. Association of serum lipid concentration and obesity with mortality in women: 20-year follow up of participants in prospective population study in Gothenberg, Sweden. BMJ 1993; 307: 1385-1388.

(33.) Robinson S, Henderson AD, Gelding SV, et al. Dyslipidaemia is associated with insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovaries. Clin Endocrinol 1996; 44: 277-284.

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(35.) Elting MW, Korsen TJM, Bezemer PD, et al. Prevalence of diabetes mellitus, hypertension and cardiac complaints in a follow-up study of a Dutch PCOS population. Hum Reprod 2001; 16: 556-560.

(36.) Talbott E, Zborowski JV, Sutton-Tyrrell K, et al. Cardiovascular risk in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Obstet Gynaecol Clin 2001; 28(1): 1-15.

(37.) Paradisi G, Steinberg HO, Hempfling A, et al. Policystic ovary syndrome is associated with endothelial dysfunction. Circulation 2001; 103: 1410-1415.

(38.) Loverro G, Lorusso F, Mei L, et al. The plasma homocysteine levels are increased in polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynaecol Obstet Invest 2002; 53: 157-162.

(39.) Yarali H, Yildinr A, Aybar F, et al. Diastolic dysfunction and increased serum homocysteine concentrations may contribute to increased cardiovascular risk in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril 2001; 76: 511-516.

(40.) Birdsall MA, Farquhar CM, White HD. Association between polycystic ovaries and extent of coronary artery disease in women having cardiac catheterization. Ann Intern Med 1997; 126: 32-35.

(41.) Gadducci A, Gargini A, Palla E, Fanucchi A, Genazzani AR. Polycystic ovary syndrome and gynecological cancers: is there a link? Gynecol Endocrinol 2005; 20: 200-208.

(42.) Giudice LC. Endometrium in PCOS: Implantation and predisposition to endocrine CA. Best Pract Clin Endocrinol Metab 2006; 20: 235-244.

(43.) Soran A, Ibott EO, Zborowski JV, Wilson JW. The prevalence of benign breast disease in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a review of a 12 year follow-up. Int J Clin Pract 2005; 59: 795-797.

(44.) Hardiman P, Pillay OS, Atioma W. Polycystic ovary syndrome and endometrial cancer. Lancet 2003; 361: 1810-1812.

(45.) Norman R, Davies MJ, Lord J, Moran LJ. The role of lifestyle modification in polycystic ovary syndrome. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2002; 13: 251-257.

(46.) Cattrall F, Healy DL. Long-term metabolic, cardiovascular and neoplastic risks with polycystic ovary syndrome: Best practice and research. Clin Obstet Gynaecol 2004; 18(5): 803-812.

(47.) Clark AM, Ledger W, Galletly C, et al. Weight loss results in significant improvement in pregnancy and ovulation rates in anovulatory obese women. Hum Reprod 1995; 10: 2705-2712.

(48.) Hollmann M, Runnebaum B, Gerhard I. Effects of weight loss on the hormonal profile in obese, infertile women. Hum Reprod 1996; 11: 1884-1891.

(49.) Clark AM, Thornley B, Tomlinson L, Galletly C, Norman RJ. Weight loss in obese infertile women results in improvement in reproductive outcome for all forms of infertility treatment. Hum Reprod 1998; 13: 1502-1505.

(50.) Wadden TA. Treatment of obesity by moderate and severe caloric restriction: Results of clinical research trials. Ann Intern Med 1993; 119: 688-693.

(51.) National Institute of Health. Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: Evidence report. J Obesity Res 1998; 6 (Suppl 2): 51S-209S.

(52.) Harwood K, Vuguin P, DiMartino-Nardi J. Current approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Horm Res 2007; 68: 209-217.

(53.) Kirpichnikov D, McFarlane SA, Sowers JR. Metformin: an update. Ann Intern Med 2002; 137: 25-33.

(54.) Teede HJ, Hutchison SK, Zoungas S. The management of insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2007; 18: 273-279.

(55.) Klein NA, Illingworth PJ, Groome NP, McNeilly AS, Battaglia DE, Soules MR. Decreased inhibin B secretion as associated with the monoropic FSH rise in older, ovulatory women: a study of serum and follicular fluid levels of dimeric inhibin A and B in spontaneous menstrual cycles. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1996; 81: 2742-2745.

(56.) Van der Spuy ZM. Long-term health risks in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. In: Kruger TF, ed. Advances in Fertility Studies and Reproductive Medicine. 1st ed. Cape Town: Juta, 2007: 352-360.

M M du Toit, MB ChB, FCOG

T I Siebert, MMed (O&G), FCOG, MD

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, Tygerberg, W Cape
Table I. Classification of overweight in
adults according to body mass index (BMI)

Classification BMI Risk of co-morbidities

Underweight <18.5 Low (but risk of other
 clinical problems
Normal range 18.5-24.9 Average
Overweight [greater than or equal to] 25 Moderate
Pre-obese 25-29.9 Increased
Obese class 1 30.0-34.9 Moderate
Obese class 2 35-39.9 Severe
Obese class 3 [greater than or equal to] 40 Very severe

Table II. Waist circumference predicts risk
of metabolic complications associated
with obesity (adapted from Seidell (13))

 Increased Substantially
 risk increased risk

Men [greater than or [greater than
 equal to] 94 cm or equal to] 102cm
Women [greater than or [greater than
 equal to] 80cm or equal to] 88cm

Table III. Mean BMI of African countries categorised by age
and gender (adapted from International Obesity Task Force:
Global Burden of Disease Analyses 2002 (19))

 Age in years

Country Sex 5-14 15-29 30-44 45-59 60-69 70-79 80+

Cameroon M 243.7 24.4 24
 F 24.6 24.8 25
Ethiopia M 14.2 17.5 18.3 18 18 17.9 19.8
 F 14.5 18.9 18.6 17.3 16.7 17.6 18.6
Gambia M 19.6 20.5 20.9 21 20
 F 21 21.9 21.8 21.3 20.9
Ghana M
 F 21.8 22.4 21.4
Kenya M
 F 21.7 22.3 22
Malawi M 19.8 19.8 19.7
 F 20.5 20.5 19.6
Mali M 18.9 20.5 20.8 20.3 19.6 20.2
 F 19.9 21.1 20.6 20 19.5 20.8
Nigeria M 19.8 20.9 21.5
 F 21 21.8 20.3
Senegal M 18.2 19.9 21 20.7 19.8 19.2
 F 19.6 21.4 22.1 22.2 21.3 20.7
Seychelles M 22.9 23.5 23.1 23.2
 F 23.2 25.7 27.2 27.5
South Africa M 13.8 21.5 24.2 25.3 24.8 24.4
 F 14 24.4 28.5 29.9 28.8 27.7
Tanzania M
 F 21.8 22.3 21.6
Zimbabwe M 15.3 19.5 20.8 21 21 20.1 20
 F 15.4 21.3 23 23.5 21.8 20.5 20.3

Table IV. Guidelines for non-invasive lifestyle modifications (51)

Effective weight loss and long-term results--National Institute of
Health Guidelines

* Sensible diet and changing eating habits for the long term

* Effective physical activity programme sustainable for the long

* Behaviour modification, reduction of stress, improving well-being

* Combination of dietary and behaviour therapy and increased
physical activity

* Social support by physician, family, spouse and peers

* Smoking cessation and reduction of alcohol consumption

* Avoidance of crash diets and short-term weight loss

* Minor roles for drugs involved in weight loss

* Avoidance of aggressive surgical approaches for the majority

* Adaption of weight loss programme to meet individual's needs

* Long-term observation, monitoring and encouragement of patients
who have been successful
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Author:du Toit, M.M.; Siebert, T.I.
Publication:South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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