Serum lipoprotein lipid profile in women with the polycystic ovary syndrome: relation to anthropometric, endocrine and metabolic variables

J Holte, T Bergh, C Berne, H Lithell
Clinical Endocrinology 1994, 41 (4): 463-71

OBJECTIVE: Although often associated with insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, various lipoprotein abnormalities have been found in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) but not invariably so when the degree of obesity is taken into account. We have therefore investigated the serum lipid profile in a group of women with polycystic ovary syndrome with and without obesity.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of serum lipoprotein lipids and plasma free fatty acids in relation to anthropometric, metabolic and hormonal variables in women with PCOS and weight-matched controls.

PATIENTS: Twenty-four obese (Pob, mean BMI +/- SD 30.6 +/- 3.3 kg/m2) and 25 non-obese (Pnob, 22.2 +/- 2.3 kg/m2) women with PCOS. Twenty obese (Cob, 30.2 +/- 3.5 kg/m2) and 20 non-obese (Cnob, 21.4 +/- 1.5 kg/m2) controls.

MEASUREMENTS: Fasting concentrations of plasma free fatty acids, serum cholesterol and triglycerides in high density lipoproteins (HDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL) and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) in relation to insulin sensitivity index (M/I; assessed with the euglycaemic insulin clamp), glucose tolerance (k-value; intravenous glucose tolerance test), basal serum hormone concentrations, and body fat distribution (skinfolds and waist hip ratio).

RESULTS: Plasma concentrations of free fatty acids were markedly higher in Pob than in the other groups (all P < 0.001). The lipoprotein lipids did not differ between Pob and Cob, or between the non-obese groups, whereas both obese groups had higher serum concentrations of triglycerides, totally and in VLDL, and lower HDL-cholesterol than their non-obese counterparts. Pob also had higher serum levels of total and LDL-cholesterol than Pnob. Pob had a more pronounced subcutaneous truncal-abdominal adiposity, higher fasting insulin levels and lower M/I than the other groups, and a lower k-value than Cob. Cob had higher levels of fasting insulin than Cnob. Free fatty acid levels correlated with the k-value (inversely) in both women with PCOS and controls, and with M/I (inversely), age and testosterone levels in PCOS. Stepwise regression analysis for the total population, comparing endocrine, anthropometric and metabolic explanatory variables, showed that the serum levels of HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides were mainly correlated with body fat distribution (both) and fasting insulin levels (triglycerides), and levels of total and LDL-cholesterol with BMI and age.

CONCLUSIONS: Plasma free fatty acid correlations were markedly increased in obese women with PCOS, closely associated with the lower insulin sensitivity and lower glucose tolerance in these women. In spite of these profound metabolic aberrations, the lipoprotein lipid profile was not significantly more abnormal in obese women with PCOS than in their weight-matched controls.

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