Eating Disorders Linked To Common Fertility Problem

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Eating disorders have been linked to an assortment of health problems, including issues with fertility. Now, new research suggests eating disorders could be associated with yet another health risk affecting one in 10 women called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

According to a study set to be presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Scientific Congress next week, women with PCOS were almost six times more likely to also live with an eating disorder compared to women without PCOS.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones, which causes problems in the ovaries. The symptoms can include irregular periods related to lack of ovulation, heightened levels of male sex hormones, excessive or thinning hair, and weight gain. However, it is unclear whether issues with weight are caused by the condition or contribute to its development.

For the study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania evaluated 121 women diagnosed with PCOS and 57 women without the condition. All participants filled out questionnaires on eating disorders, eating behavior, depression, and anxiety. The women with PCOS also completes a questionnaire assessing their quality of life.

The average BMI of the women with PCOS was classified as obese, with a BMI of 33.6. In comparison, the women without the condition had an average BMI of 25.4 – just above “healthy” on the scale.

According to the results, women with PCOS were almost six times more likely to also have an eating disorder, even when accounting for weight. The women were also three times more likely to have anxiety or depression.

While the results found a link between PCOS and eating disorders, it is unclear if eating disorders are contributing to the development of the condition or if PCOS-related symptoms could lead to disordered eating.

In a press release, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Owen Davis, said: “Women with PCOS experience a large set of painful, discouraging, and uncomfortable manifestations of the syndrome.”

Davis also suggested that women living with PCOS may benefit from screenings for eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.

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