PCOS and Insulin Resistance: A Guide to Weight Loss

PCOS and Insulin Resistance: A Guide to Weight Loss

Published: 10:16AM 15 May 2023

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Jayti Shah

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder affecting one in ten women of childbearing age. It is associated with irregular periods, excess androgen levels, and polycystic ovaries. A significant number of women with PCOS also struggle with weight gain and have a hard time losing weight due to insulin resistance. This post aims to explain the connection between PCOS, insulin resistance, and weight loss, and provide some scientifically-backed strategies to manage weight with PCOS.

PCOS and Insulin Resistance: The Connection

1. Understanding PCOS

PCOS is characterized by an overproduction of androgens (male hormones) in women, leading to hormonal imbalances that can affect periods, skin, hair, and weight. Women with PCOS may also develop small collections of fluid (follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs.

2. Insulin Resistance and PCOS

Up to 70% of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, a condition where the body's cells are not responsive to the hormone insulin, which helps control blood sugar levels. This resistance prompts the pancreas to produce more insulin, leading to high insulin levels in the body.

Insulin is also an anabolic hormone, meaning it promotes weight gain and fat storage. Therefore, increased insulin levels can make weight loss more difficult for women with PCOS.

Strategies for Weight Loss with PCOS and Insulin Resistance

While weight loss with PCOS can be challenging, several strategies can help manage weight and improve insulin sensitivity.

1. Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity helps the body use insulin more effectively, reduces insulin resistance, and can aid in weight loss. It also helps in managing other PCOS symptoms such as fatigue and mood disorders.

2. A Balanced, Low GI Diet

A low-glycemic index (GI) diet can help manage insulin levels and promote weight loss. Low GI foods, such as whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, cause a slow, steady rise in blood sugar, keeping insulin levels stable.

3. Adequate Sleep

Poor sleep can disrupt hormones, including insulin, and may contribute to weight gain. Getting adequate, quality sleep can help regulate insulin and aid in weight management.

Insulin Resistance (Image courtesy - iStock photo)


PCOS and insulin resistance present unique challenges to weight loss, but these can be managed with strategic lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, a balanced low-GI diet, and adequate sleep can significantly improve insulin sensitivity, facilitate weight loss, and enhance overall health in women with PCOS. It's important to remember that every body is unique and changes may take time, so patience, persistence, and a focus on overall health rather than numbers on the scale are key.

Jayti Shah is a Clinical Nutritionist with a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA). Over the last 9 years, she has helped 400 clients in their clinical and weight loss journeys. She works with SocialBoat as a nutrition consultant.

At SocialBoat, we offer custom diet plans and guided workouts to help you achieve your goals in a 360-degree approach. Our gamified experience ensures that you don’t find workouts boring and we reward you for being consistent with your efforts.


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  2. Diamanti-Kandarakis, E., & Dunaif, A. (2012). Insulin resistance and the polycystic ovary syndrome revisited: an update on mechanisms and implications. Endocrine reviews, 33(6), 981-1030. https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/33/6/981/2354662
  3. Polak, R., Bajerska, J., & Szulińska, M. (2017). Insulin resistance and effectiveness of lifestyle interventions in overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 36(3), 150-156.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2016.1263995
  4. Cheema, B. S., Vizza, L., & Swaraj, S. (2014). Progressive resistance training in polycystic ovary syndrome: can pumping iron improve clinical outcomes?. Sports medicine, 44(9), 1197-1207. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-014-0209-2
  5. Marsh, K. A., Steinbeck, K. S., Atkinson, F. S., Petocz, P., & Brand-Miller, J. C. (2010). Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional healthy diet on polycystic ovary syndrome. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 92(1), 83-92. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/92/1/83/4597430
  6. Tasali, E., Chapotot, F., Leproult, R., Whitmore, H., & Ehrmann, D. A. (2008). Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea improves cardiometabolic function in young obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 93(2), 450-458.  https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/93/2/450/2597104

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