BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects one in twelve women of reproductive age, yet many don't realize they have it. There is no cure to the condition that causes infertility, but Baton Rouge researchers think the best treatment may lie in an old standard: diet and exercise. Now they're seeking volunteers to complete a study that could provide definitive evidence.
A few years ago you never would have found 28-year-old Grace Pickering in a gym.
"That's just something I never did before," she recalled. "Throughout the study I lost inches and about 20 to 25 pounds."
Pickering was diagnosed with PCOS at age 12. The first symptom is an irregular menstrual cycle.
"You can see how much bigger the ovaries are," Dr. Leanne Redman pointed out while looking at an image from a PCOS patient.
Redman is an assistant professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. She's halfway through a study called PULSE to test different PCOS therapies.
The condition often affects women who are overweight or obese, and causes small cysts to form along the outer edges of the enlarged ovaries. Many women don't ovulate and can't become pregnant.
"We're very excited about this study, because really what it's doing is trying to understand not only how diet and exercise help the infertility, but how diet and exercise are affecting the signals that are coming from the brain, these certain hormones that are interacting with the ovaries," Redman explained.
The six-month study randomizes participants into three groups. One involves a 25 percent dietary restriction, one focuses on exercise training, and the other on the diabetes drug metformin, which is currently used to treat PCOS.
Pickering ended up in the exercise group and spent six months using Pennington's gym free of charge. She also got to work with trainers to develop a personal fitness plan that's paid off well after her study ended.
"Since the study I've been trying to be consistent with working out, and I've lost about 20 more pounds," she said.
She also said her menstrual cycle is also more regulated, meaning she's more likely to get pregnant when she's ready.
"PCOS has become more common, and so we do know it's reflected by our lifestyles," Redman said. "So that's why a lifestyle program should be the first choice for treatment for many women that are seeking fertility, because the outcome is a healthier mom gets pregnant, and hopefully we get a healthier baby."
The PULSE study needs another 25 women ages 20 to 40 who are overweight and have an irregular menstrual cycle. Participants are paid up to $1,500 upon completion.