Individuals with Insulin Resistance-related PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) face a higher risk of developing liver disease, according to a study conducted at the University of California at San Diego. Researchers claim the finding is important for doctors who might not be aware that women with PCOS face this higher risk and thus treat them with medications that could be toxic to the liver.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a disorder caused by a hormone imbalance linked with the way the body processes insulin, which aids the body’s conversion of blood sugar into energy. When insulin levels and glucose levels become unbalanced, because of a condition called Insulin Resistance, the ovaries can produce an abnormal abundance of the predominantly male hormone testosterone, which is a characteristic symptom of PCOS.
One symptom of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is the growth of abnormal cysts on the ovaries. This can be accompanied by irregular or non-existent menstrual cycles. Symptoms can also include hirsutism (abnormal growth of hair), thinning hair, acne, weight gain, depression and anxiety, sleep apnea (breathing troubles during sleeping), and thyroid disorders.
In the study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in February 2005, physicians at the University of California at San Diego theorized that PCOS is connected with a higher risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. This is an umbrella term used to describe a range of liver diseases, from benign to potentially fatal, that are characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver. This increase in fatty liver risk can be caused by different things, such as Insulin Resistance-related disorders like Type 2 Diabetes, weight gain, poor diet, or rare illnesses like tuberculosis. A more damaging kind of fatty liver disease is known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is diagnosed when accumulated fat causes liver inflammation, resulting in permanent damage to the liver.
“We hypothesized that women with PCOS would demonstrate a high incidence of NAFLD because of the link to Insulin Resistance,” explained Walter Schwimmer, Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Bellflower, California, and one of the study’s lead researchers.
Insulin Resistance is a shared characteristic of both Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and NAFLD. “The data in the study, in fact, demonstrates that elevated ALT is more common in women with PCOS than in the general population of women of a similar age, race and body weight,” he added. Doctors look for levels of ALT as a sign of liver disease. ALT stands for alanine aminotransferase, an enzyme released by the liver into the bloodstream when the liver is damaged.
For the study, researchers reviewed the records of 70 women who had been evaluated for infertility. Information was gathered on height, weight, blood pressure, hirsutism, liver enzyme levels, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and cholesterol.
Nearly a third of the women diagnosed as having PCOS had higher-than-normal levels of ALT, indicating the presence of liver damage. Additional levels of another liver enzyme, aspartate aminotransferase, or AST, were increased in 12 percent of the patients studied. All seven subjects with an elevated AST also had an elevated ALT.
Women with higher ALT levels (above 19) also weighed significantly more, had a higher waist circumference, increased triglyceride levels, and higher cholesterol. “There was a significant association between the presence of hirsutism and the finding of an abnormal ALT in women with PCOS,” the study reported, adding that the link between fatty liver disease and hirsutism was “very unexpected.”
“We determined that Insulin Resistance explains the high rate of elevated ALT in women with PCOS, and that these women with PCOS are at increased risk for NAFLD,” said Dr. Schwimmer.
But the investigators also cautioned that since liver biopsies weren’t performed in the study, it was not possible to determine the true prevalence of NAFLD in the group of women studied.
In conclusion, the investigators recommended that women diagnosed with PCOS who also have higher ALT levels should avoid alcohol and acetaminophen, both of which can be toxic to a damaged liver.
A complete system including Nutritional Supplements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and botanicals formulated to address specific conditions) a realistic exercise program, nutritional guidance, a support system that, and access to information, will help you change unhealthy lifestyle choices, and address the issues presented by these syndromes. The Insulite PCOS System is just shuch a complete system.
Click here to read about the ground-breaking Insulite PCOS System, which is scientifically-designed to reverse Insulin Resistance, a hormonal imbalance that has been linked to PCOS and liver damage. The Insulite PCOS System inculdes four Nutritional Supplement formulations, including PolyPlus, which consists of nutrients such as milk thistle, that support liver function.
You might be interested in some of our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about PCOS and the Insulite PCOS System.
- I have been diagnosed with PCOS but don’t have problems with weight gain. Would the Insulite PCOS System still work for me?
- Is the Insulite PCOS System appropriate for someone with hypoglycemia?
(1) Abnormal aminotransferase activity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
– Schwimmer JB, Khorram O, Chiu V, Schwimmer WB., Fertil Steril 2005 Feb;83(2):494-7.
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Since June 2008, Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health has supported more than 2.4 million women through the Insulite PCOS System, through this website, through emails providing information and support, through consultations with our Consulting & Advisory Team, through telephone conference calls, through online webinars, through published articles, and most recently, through social media community building and support efforts. Insulite Laboratories and Insulite Health are singularly dedicated to improving the lives of women with PCOS and conditions resulting from Insulin Resistance.