Obesity harms female reproductive health

March 10, 2022
Obesity harms female reproductive health

Research from the University of Oxford, UK, suggests obesity heightens the risk of developing female reproductive conditions/disorders such as heavy menstrual bleeding, uterine fibroids (UF), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pre-eclampsia, and infertility. However, the aetiological link between obesity in the cause(s) of reproductive conditions differs by type of obesity and reproductive condition.

To study the implications of obesity on female reproductive conditions, research scholar Samvida Venkatesh from the University of Oxford, and colleagues, conducted a Mendelian randomisation study of some 257,000 women of European ancestry, aged 40-69. The women’s medical data was accessed from the UK Biobank database, which includes environmental and genetic information of participants.

With the records, researchers then created a statistical model to estimate the association of body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio with risk of numerous female reproductive conditions. They found that inherited genetic variation that is associated with obesity is also associated with female reproductive conditions. As genetic variants are randomly assigned at birth, this is a method to estimate the effect of obesity on reproductive conditions unbiased by environmental and lifestyle factors or reverse causation.

Levels of specific hormones such as leptin, which is secreted by fat cells, is increased in women with endometriosis, UF, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, even when analyses are adjusted for BMI. Similarly, obesity-induced insulin resistance was noted to amplify the risk and severity of PCOS and pre-eclampsia by dysregulating steroid hormone and metabolic pathway(s).

With the demonstrated genetic evidence, the researchers call for further exploration into “the mechanisms mediating the causal associations of overweight and obesity on gynaecological health to identify targets for disease prevention and treatment.”

Category: Education, Features

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