Last updated on February 2018

Nutritional and Metabolic Correlates of Ovarian Morphology in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome


Brief description of study

The investigators would like to determine how aspects of metabolism and age influence ovarian function. The purpose of the study is to understand how nutrition and metabolism relate to follicle development in women with regular cycles, irregular cycles, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). We also plan to identify lifestyle factors associated with PCOS and understand how diet and activity levels impact features of PCOS.

Detailed Study Description

In the ovaries, eggs rest in fluid filled sacs called follicles. When follicles grow they form small fluid-filled cysts that can be easily seen when we use ultrasound to view the ovaries. In women with regular menstrual cycles, groups of follicles grow and regress 2 to 3 times during their cycle (usually over a 28- day period). Several of these follicles grow to a stage where they begin to develop the potential to ovulate - but in general only one follicle is chosen to ovulate. Thus, at any given time during the menstrual cycle, numerous fluid-filled follicles can be visualized in a woman's ovaries at various stages of development using transvaginal ultrasonography. In women with absent or infrequent menstrual cycles, very little is known about the growth patterns of their follicles and how factors such as metabolic hormones, might play a role in the failure to ovulate. Being underweight or overweight increases your chances of having irregular or absent menstrual cycles and a history of abnormal reproductive function compounds your risks for chronic diseases such as infertility, diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis and certain cancers. This is particularly the case for women with PCOS that have menstrual cycles that appear to worsen or improve depending on their body weight and metabolic status. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects 6-12% of reproductive-aged women within the general population. The hallmark features of PCOS are menstrual irregularity, increased levels of androgens, and polycystic ovaries. The current diagnostic criteria require 2 out of 3 of these features to be present for the diagnosis, therefore a number of phenotypes of PCOS exist. However, the metabolic and reproductive differences across the phenotypic spectrum of PCOS are not well understood. Women with PCOS characteristically have polycystic ovaries, where up to 10 times more follicles are present in the ovary at any given time. Further, the follicle-size populations and overall distribution throughout the ovary varies in women - follicles may be situated around the periphery of the ovary or may be distributed throughout the ovary. Presumably these small follicles are arrested in development - but emerging data from the Lujan laboratory suggest that this is not the case. Rather, follicles continue to grow in a dynamic pattern during these prolonged periods of anovulation. By comparing follicle populations, reproductive hormones and markers of metabolism in women with regular cycles, women with irregular cycles, and women with a history of PCOS, the researchers plan to identify what factors might explain why fertility potential and long-term health are compromised in some women but not in others. By including women at both early and late stages of their reproductive potential, the researchers will also be able to assess what influence age has on these factors. The ultimate goal of this research is to understand how nutrition and metabolism regulate follicle development in women so we can better develop lifestyle and drug therapies to help women preserve their fertility and long-term health. Since obesity has recently become the leading cause of infertility in North America, these studies are especially important.

Current research has failed to thoroughly examine the relationships between dietary intake, energy expenditure and PCOS. The purpose of this proposed study is to identify lifestyle factors associated with PCOS. Through dietary intake and energy expenditure data, the researchers plan to examine potential lifestyle differences between PCOS and healthy women, as well as between BMI classifications within women with PCOS. The Research Team will also be able to evaluate the diet quality according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans of all women included in the study. The Research Team is also interested in the relationships between biological markers and lifestyle endpoints in women with and without PCOS. Previous literature has shown there are biological marker differences between those with and without PCOS. By examining these relationships, researchers may further understand whether PCOS status is associated with lifestyle parameters.

To accomplish these objectives, the investigators plan to recruit 120 women with regular menstrual cycles and 240 women with irregular menstrual cycles, with or without PCOS (sub-grouped into 120 women with irregular menstrual cycles and 120 women with a history of PCOS). Their goal is to recruit an equal number of women in each group such that they are matched for age (18 - 48 years old) and body mass index (BMI; Normal weight = 18 - 24.9 kg/m2; Overweight = 25 - 29.9 kg/m2; Obese 30kg/m2). Women will be included in the PCOS sub-group if they have a confirmed PCOS diagnosis from their primary care provider. Ultrasound scans of the ovaries will be assessed for the total number, size, and distribution of follicles using both two- and three-dimensional imaging techniques. Participants will have blood samples collected determine serum concentrations of luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol, progesterone, anti-mllerian hormone (AMH), and inhibin B. The following metabolic parameters will be assessed: (1) 75-gram oral glucose tolerance test to characterize glucose and insulin dynamics at 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes post-glucose ingestion; (2) dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan to quantify body fat and lean muscle distribution; (3) vitals and anthropometry assessment to measure waist and hip circumference, height, weight, blood pressure, and heart rate, and (4) fasting blood tests to detect serum concentrations of androgens (i.e., total testosterone, androstenedione, free androgen index) and serum markers of metabolic syndrome (i.e., lipids and hemoglobin A1C). Participants will complete a food frequency questionnaire, a semi-structured dietary interview, and physical activity questionnaire. A researcher may also provide participants with an accelerometer to wear for a week. Participants may also elect to participate in an optional subcutaneous fat biopsy.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT01927471

Contact Investigators or Research Sites near you

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Marla E. Lujan, PhD

Human Metabolic Research Unit, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY United States
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Marla E. Lujan, PhD

Strong Fertility Center
Rochester, NY United States
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Marla E. Lujan, PhD

CRC at University of Rochester Medical Center
Rochester, NY United States
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