Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also known as polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD), is infamous for wreaking havoc on fertility, menstruation and physical appearance. And yet, as a silent sugar syndrome, it is also inherently tethered to diabetes. If you aren’t already familiar with PCOS, here is an introduction.
PCOS is a female hormonal disorder that elevates androgen levels and upsets the endocrine system. It is thought to be triggered by insulin resistance, low-grade inflammation and genetic influences. It usually presents symptoms like weight gain, thinning of hair, male pattern baldness, excessive facial and body hair, acne, and infertility. The condition affects about 1 in 4 women.
Research suggests that endocrine disruption caused by insulin resistance can be a trigger for type 2 diabetes, a condition that occurs when the cells stop processing insulin adequately, or when insulin production becomes compromised. In general, although type 2 diabetes can be preventively managed through effective nutrition and exercise, PCOS poses additional risks of the disease.
Statistics suggest that PCOS-affected young women have higher odds of developing diabetes at a later age. For instance, a study of over 8,000 Australian women revealed that those with PCOS were at 4 to 8.8 times the risk of becoming diabetic than their non-PCOS counterparts. A similar study conducted in Denmark found the risk multiple to be 4 times. In light of these findings, medical professionals agree that preventive health check-ups are the best way to diagnose diabetes early in PCOS women.
While it is well-accepted that a healthy weight, regular exercise and balanced meals can serve as antidotes for both PCOS and diabetes, it is important to note treatment plans for the two are mutually exclusive, although they may work in conjunction. PCOS, for example, is usually managed through a combination of birth control pills – for acne control and menstrual regulation – and metformin – for insulin stimulation. Birth control pills, however, are known to augment blood glucose levels, which could be dangerous for diabetic patients. If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, it’s wise to start taking preventive measures early to minimise your risk of diabetes. A low-sugar, low-carb diet can condition your body to better respond to insulin.
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