Obesity may cause hormonal imbalance, infertility

Pediatric endocrinologist Karen Rubin, MD, says the obesity epidemic in teenage girls has led to increased insulin production and in some cases a hormonal imbalance called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and infertility. Girls may report irregular menstrual periods, acne, or abnormal hair growth, which appear to be caused by a higher-than-normal production of male hormones. Higher insulin production can cause the body to release extra male hormones known as androgens, which can interrupt normal ovulation. Obesity alone will not cause PCOS, but Dr. Rubin and colleagues acknowledge that if overweight girls with PCOS could lose 15 pounds they might resume their regular periods without medication. This would also cause an improvement in the other PCOS-related symptoms. Dr. Rubin plans to publish a report that will link obesity and adolescent- onset PCOS.