What Is the Connection Between PCOS, Insulin Resistance, and Sex Hormones?

What Is the Connection Between PCOS, Insulin Resistance, and Sex Hormones?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, Insulin Resistance (IR), and sex hormones all share a complex relationship that, to date, modern medicine has yet to completely understand. At their most basic, they connect through the hormones of the body—and through an imbalance in these hormones that can lead to devastating symptoms.

Understanding the Hormonal Imbalance

To better comprehend the link between PCOS, IR, and sex hormones, it is important to differentiate which hormones are involved in each:

  • Sex hormones: There are two categories of sex hormones—male sex hormones and female sex hormones. Male hormones are called androgens, and include testosterone. Female hormones include estrogen and progesterone, among others.
  • PCOS: This hormonal disorder occurs when too many androgens are present in a woman’s system. PCOS hormones result in an increase in testosterone, in particular, and in the many symptoms that are associated with this condition, such as cystic ovaries.
  • IR: This endocrine disorder occurs when the body’s cells become desensitized to the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for converting blood sugar, or glucose, into energy. When the cells are not responsive to insulin, blood sugar and insulin levels rise, as they are both left in the bloodstream.1

The hormonal system is very fragile, so it may be possible that IR causes sex hormone levels to change; however, a recent study sheds a little more light on the subject.2

The Relationship Between Insulin and Sex Hormones

Fulya Akin, Mehmet Bastemir, and Bunyamin Kaptanoglu released a study in 2007 that questions the relationship between insulin and sex hormone-binding globulin levels, or SHBG. Finding the relationship between these hormones may unlock some of the secrets of PCOS, as the condition encompasses both of them.

The study aimed at determining “the impact of insulin sensitivity on the relationship between sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and insulin levels during active weight loss in euthyroid obese women.”2 Sixty-four women wer