High fat diet during childhood may increase PCOS risk later in life

Dec 2017

Eating a high fat diet during childhood may increase the risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) later in life, according to a study published in the journal Reproduction. This research highlights the importance of a healthy diet and indicates that early lifestyle changes may prevent PCOS in women.

Eating a high fat diet during childhood may increase the risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) later in life, according to a study published in the journal Reproduction. This research highlights the importance of a healthy diet and indicates that early lifestyle changes may prevent PCOS in women.

PCOS is the most common endocrine condition amongst pre-menopausal women, and it is estimated to affect as much as 15-20% of women globally. PCOS is characterised by elevated levels of male hormones which can cause a range of distressing and life-limiting symptoms, including reduced fertility, irregular periods, excessive facial and body hair, and acne. Multiple cysts on the ovaries are a common sign of PCOS, and the condition has previously been associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Although an unhealthy diet, high in saturated fat, has been linked to poor metabolic health, its impact on the development of PCOS is unknown.

In this study, conducted at the K.B. Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research and the L.M. College of Pharmacy, India, Ms Roshni Patel and Dr Gaurang Shah investigated the impact of a high fat diet on the development on PCOS symptoms in rats. The rats were fed a diet high in saturated fat for three months, prior to reaching puberty. The effect of this diet on the health of the rats was assessed after they had reached puberty at 2 months. Rats fed a diet high in saturated fat exhibited ovarian cysts and a number of metabolic and hormonal changes related to those found in PCOS patients. The rats showed signs of insulin resistance, which is a risk for development of type 2 diabetes, increased testosterone levels and lower oestrogen levels. All of which are hallmarks of PCOS in women.

“Our studies show that high fat diet may induce PCOS or, if we look at it from a different angle, that a healthy diet during childhood can help avert the condition”, says Ms Roshni Patel, who led the study. “Although the results depict gross changes in hormonal levels, metabolic dysfunction, ovarian morphology, and menstrual disturbances, this model opens the door to a better understanding of the condition and may lead to more effective prevention and treatment methods.”

Ms Patel’s group now plan to evaluate the effectiveness of new treatments for PCOS, as well as studying how the disease develops, using this animal model.


Notes for Editors

The paper “High-fat diet exposure from pre-pubertal age induces PCOS in rats” was be published in Reproduction on Friday 1 December 2017. For copies of the paper, please contact the press office at

Reproduction is published by Bioscientifica.


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