Desperately Seeking Susan ... and Emily, Kirsten, Megan, etc.

Clinical trial needs young women for under-researched condition linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease

Helen Metella - 14 October 2016

Nutrition researchers are looking for young women with a cluster of symptoms that include male pattern hair growth and irregular periods, for an important clinical trial.

These symptoms are caused by an excess of the male hormone testosterone in a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It is a public health concern because it's associated with obesity and an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Even more worrisome, "because of the increase in childhood obesity, we're seeing an increased incidence of PCOS in adolescents and young women who are also overweight," said Donna Vine, co-director of the Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases Laboratory and leader of the PCOS clinical trial.

"We want to intervene early so that if these women have PCOS and metabolic problems, such as abnormal blood fats like triglycerides, we can prevent the development of cardiovascular disease," she said.

Currently, the first line of treatment in overweight PCOS patients is to modify dietary and lifestyle habits, and often they are prescribed metformin, an insulin-sensitizing drug.

However, Vine and her team have shown in pre-clinical studies that dietary fish oil can improve blood fat levels.

"We just need conclusive clinical evidence to prove fish oil is effective alone or in conjunction with metformin in improving blood fats in women with PCOS," she said.

So her multi-year clinical trial needs 100 participants who will either add fish oil supplements to their diet, or use them along with metformin for 12 weeks. Their blood fats and other biochemical outcomes, such as blood glucose, will be monitored.

Participating in the trial has numerous benefits for women with PCOS, said Vine. They'll get to know a lot about their individual metabolic status, they will be observed closely by an endocrinologist, and they will receive dietary assessment and advice from a registered dietician. They'll also have the opportunity to meet others with PCOS, and to contribute to the study of women's health and PCOS, which is currently under-researched, Vine said.

Women interested in participating in the PCOS clinical trial must be aged 18 to 30, be overweight or obese, and have a medical diagnosis of PCOS. For more information, contact