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Dietary intake, body composition and physical activity levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome compared with healthy controls

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age in the UK. Obesity is a common feature of PCOS with approximately 33% of UK women with PCOS (wPCOS) being obese (Barr et al., 2007) compared with 20% of women in the general population (Ruston et al., 2004). This research aims to compare the diet and lifestyle of wPCOS (normal and overweight) with matched controls. Methods: 

A 7-day food and activity diary, and medical questionnaire were completed by 37 wPCOS and 31 age and weight matched controls. A pedometer was also provided to on the same 7 days. Anthropometric measurements (body mass index, percentage body fat, and waist-to-hip ratio), and dietary intakes were compared. Percentage body fat measurements were taken using Bodystat tetrapolar bioimpedance (BodyStat, UK). Ethical approval was obtained from Roehampton University Ethics Board and the Huntingdon Research Ethics Committee. Results: 

There were no significant differences for anthropometric measurements or mean energy intake between wPCOS and controls. However, percentage energy (%E) from fat, and absolute and percentage saturated fat intakes were all significantly higher for wPCOS compared with controls ( Table 1) and further from the recommendations for health. Percentage energy intake from carbohydrate for wPCOS was significantly lower than controls (P = 0.003) with no significant differences in the contribution from protein.

Stratification by BMI identified a significant difference in %E from carbohydrate between lean wPCOS (41 ± 6%) and lean controls (P = 0.042) and conversely a higher %E intake from fat in lean wPCOS versus lean controls (P = 0.039). Discussion: 

Results indicate both qualitative and quantitative differences in the dietary intakes of wPCOS compared to age and weight matched controls. However, no significant differences in activity levels or body composition were identified. Analysis is ongoing and will help to further elucidate the relationship between behaviour, weight and risk factor profile in women with PCOS allowing for the development of more effective management strategies. Conclusions: 

This is the first study to report the habitual dietary intake of UK wPCOS compared with matched controls, and results are similar to US findings (Wright et al., 2004). Identification of sub-optimal dietary patterns in wPCOS in the UK will allow dietary information for this population to be more effectively tailored to help maximise the success of lifestyle interventions. References 

Barr, S., Hart, K., Reeves, S. & Jeanes, Y. (2007) Dietary composition of UK women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Ann. Nutr. Metab.51(Suppl. 1): 345.

Ruston, D., Hoare, J., Henderson, L. et al. (2004) The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Adults aged 19 to 64 years. Volume 4. London: The Stationery Office.

Wright, C.E., Zborowski, J.V., Talbott, E.O. et al. (2004) Dietary intake, physical activity, and obesity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Int. J. Obes. 28, 1026–1032.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Human and Life Sciences, Roehampton University, London, UK 2: Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, Email:

Publication date: August 1, 2008


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