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The Role of Inflammation in PCOS

Margaret Wertheim M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

By Margaret Wertheim M.S., R.D. , L.D.N.

When most people hear the word “inflammation,” they think of a swollen ankle, red and irritated eyes, or the pain of an injury. This is called acute inflammation which occurs over a short period of time and is a helpful process in the body in response to any sort of trauma or injury. This type of inflammation helps to promote healing and prevent infection. On the other hand, prolonged or chronic inflammation in the body is harmful and is associated with many health conditions including PCOS, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

As Breea discussed in her earlier post entitled The Many Faces of PCOS , women with PCOS have differing characteristics. PCOS is present not only in overweight women, but also in normal weight women. According to a 2009 study in the journal Metabolism , levels of inflammatory markers in the blood are increased not only in overweight or obese women with PCOS but also in normal weight women with PCOS compared to women who do not have PCOS. For certain markers of inflammation, having PCOS and being obese increased inflammatory marker levels even more. This increase in chronic inflammation in PCOS is concerning, because chronic inflammation is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease as well as problems with fertility.

Another study from the journal Mediators of Inflammation notes that pathways in the body involved in blood sugar regulation overlap with pathways involved in inflammation which may explain a relationship between blood sugar regulation and inflammation in PCOS. Insulin resistance exists in obese and normal weight women with PCOS, but obesity worsens the insulin resistance much the same as obesity worsens the inflammation in PCOS. These results make a strong case for the beneficial role of weight loss if needed in PCOS. The importance of decreasing this chronic inflammation cannot be overemphasized, because not only may it be helpful for managing PCOS and improving fertility, but also in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

While the cause and best treatment for PCOS has yet to determined, the research indicates that insulin resistance, blood sugar regulation, inflammation, and hormone levels appear to be linked. The nutritionists here at Pulling Down the Moon can help you to implement changes to your diet and/or recommend supplements which can help you to lose weight if needed, better regulate your blood sugar, and decrease the inflammation associated with PCOS which may help to improve your chances of conception and decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease.


1. González F, Rote NS, Minium J, Kirwan JP. Evidence of Proatherogenic Inflammation in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Metabolism; 2009 July; 58(7):954-962.

2. Sathyapalan T, Atkin SL. Mediators of Inflammation in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Relation to Adiposity.  Mediators of Inflammation

; 2010.