Objective: To comprehensively examine weight management practices in a large community sample of women with and without PCOS and their associations with dietary intake and physical activity.
Design: This study is a large population-based observational cross-sectional study (Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health).
Participants: Women in the 1973-78 cohort (n=7767 total; n=556 with PCOS, n=7211 without PCOS).
Main outcome measures: Healthy or potentially unhealthy weight management practices, dietary intake and physical activity.
Results: Women with PCOS were more likely to be following both healthy (reducing meal or snack size, reducing fat or sugar intake or following a low glycaemic index diet) and potentially unhealthy weight management practices (smoking or use of laxative, diet pills, fasting or diuretics) than women without PCOS. For women with PCOS, use of a range of healthy weight management practices were associated with increases in physical activity, diet quality, % protein and decreases in glycaemic index, % fat, % saturated fat, % carbohydrates or fibre. Use of potentially unhealthy weight management practices were associated with decreases in diet quality.
Conclusion: In PCOS, a common condition where lifestyle management is recommended first line, we report novel findings that community-based women with PCOS are more likely to follow both healthy and potentially unhealthy weight management practices than women without PCOS. Use of healthy practices is generally associated with improved dietary intake or physical activity and use of potentially unhealthy practices is associated with poorer dietary intake. In PCOS we should focus on improving healthy weight practices across both diet quality and quantity and on addressing unhealthy weight practices and their potential adverse effect on dietary intake.