PURPOSE: Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are hyperandrogenemic and insulin resistant, which are associated with alterations in circulating lipid and lipoprotein levels. We sought to determine the prevalence of, and risk factors for, lipid abnormalities in these women. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Non-Hispanic white women with polycystic ovary syndrome (n = 195) and ethnically matched control women (n = 62) had fasting blood obtained for hormone and lipid levels. Subjects were categorized by body mass index (nonobese <27 kg/m2, obese ≥27 kg/m2), and analyses were adjusted for age. RESULTS: Total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels increased significantly in obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (n = 153) compared with obese control women (n = 35; mean difference in total cholesterol level = 29 mg/dL; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 14 to 45 mg/dL; P <0.001; mean difference in LDL-C level = 16 mg/dL; 95% CI: 4 to 30 mg/dL; P = 0.006). Similarly, total cholesterol and LDL-C levels increased significantly in nonobese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (n = 42) compared with nonobese control women (n = 27; mean difference in total cholesterol = 32 mg/dL; 95% CI: 13 to 52 mg/dL; P <0.001; mean difference in LDL-C level = 32 mg/dL; 95% CI: 15 to 52 mg/dL; P <0.001). In obese women, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and triglyceride levels increased significantly in women with polycystic ovary syndrome compared with control women (mean difference in HDL-C level = 6 mg/dL; 95% CI: 2 to 12 mg/dL; P = 0.002; mean difference in triglyceride level = 34 mg/dL; 95% CI: 1 to 77 mg/dL; P = 0.04). Differences in LDL-C and HDL-C levels, but not triglyceride levels, remained significant after adjusting for alcohol intake, smoking, and exercise. Although age, body mass index, and polycystic ovary syndrome status were significant predictors of lipid levels, these factors accounted for no more than 25% of the variance. CONCLUSIONS: In this large study of non-Hispanic white women, elevations in LDL-C levels were the predominant lipid abnormality in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, independent of obesity. The characteristic dyslipidemia of insulin resistance was absent. Indeed, obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome had relatively elevated HDL-C levels, which may confer some protection against cardiovascular disease.
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