STUDY QUESTION: Do weight management practices differ in women with and without PCOS?
SUMMARY ANSWER: Women in the general population with self-reported PCOS are more likely to be using healthy weight management practices and alternative non-lifestyle measures for weight management than women without PCOS.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Lifestyle management is the first-line treatment in PCOS. However, the specific weight management practices used by women with PCOS and their effect on diet and physical activity are unclear.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: The study was a population-based observational cross-sectional study involving women in the 1973-1978 cohort (n = 7767 total; n = 556 with PCOS, n = 7211 without PCOS).
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Women with and without self-reported PCOS were included. Self-reported outcome measures included healthy lifestyle-related or alternative non-lifestyle-related (e.g. laxatives or smoking) weight management practices, dietary intake and physical activity.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Women with PCOS were more likely to be following both healthy [reducing meal or snack size (odds ratio (OR) 1.50, 95% CI 1.14, 1.96, P = 0.004) and reducing fat or sugar intake (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.03, 1.69, P = 0.027) or following a low glycaemic index diet (OR 2.88, 95% CI 2.30, 3.59, P < 0.001)] and alternative [smoking (OR 1.60, 95% CI 1.02, 2.52, P = 0.043) or use of laxative, diet pills, fasting or diuretics (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.07, 1.97, P = 0.017)] weight management practices than women without PCOS. In PCOS, the use of a range of healthy weight management practices was associated with increases in physical activity (P < 0.001), diet quality (P < 0.001), percentage protein intake (P < 0.001) and decreases in glycaemic index (P < 0.001), and percentages of fat (P = 0.001), saturated fat (P < 0.001) or fibre (P = 0.003). Use of alternative weight management practices was associated with decreases in diet quality.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Limitations include the use of self-reported data for PCOS, height, weight, diet, physical activity and weight management behaviours.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: In PCOS, we should focus on improving healthy weight practices across both diet quality and quantity, and on assessing alternative weight practices and their potential adverse effect on dietary intake.