It is estimated that one in five women suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This endocrinological disorder causes excess male hormones, hormonal imbalances and can lead to a number of symptoms including infertility. Although the precise causes of PCOS are unknown, certain factors may contribute to its development and the most recent findings indicate that uric acid (UA) may be to blame for PCOS onset.
Some studies have shown that certain levels of uric acid serve as a protective benefit in humans by providing an antioxidant effect. However, other studies have revealed that uric acid provides a paradox of benefits and risk factors. These studies indicate that although uric acid is a major antioxidant in human plasma, it also correlates with the development of conditions associated with oxidative stress such as obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
In regard to PCOS, studies are finding that levels of uric acid are higher in women who have PCOS and that as a result of these increased levels, complications can arise.
Understanding What Uric Acid Is
While we’ve previously stated that uric acid is considered an antioxidant, there is more to it than that. Uric acid is a chemical produced in the body when substances called purines are broken down. Purines, are a chemical compound that are naturally produced in the body. In addition to being produced by the body, these chemicals are also found in some foods and drinks such as liver, shellfish, anchovies, mackerel, trout, scallops, bacon, and beer. When purines are present in the body, they serve a number of functions, acting as metabolic signals, providing energy to the body, controlling cell growth, contribute to sugar transport and other essential functions. When high amounts of purine are present and metabolized, they produce a waste product; uric acid.
While uric acid plays a functional role in the body’s fluids as an antioxidant, dissolving in blood and traveling to the kidneys for excess removal. If the body produces too much uric acid or does not remove enough of it, issues can arise. This high level of uric acid in the blood is called hyperuricemia. This onset of hyperuricemia can then lead to health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and gout.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and UA Levels
When it comes to analyzing UA levels in women with PCOS, initial research focused on metabolic issues associated with PCOS. Studies found that the prevalence of hyperuricemia in women with PCOS was significantly higher than that in women without PCOS.
Initial studies theorized that this correlation was due to prevalence of obesity, higher blood sugar levels, and high blood pressure in women with PCOS. Additional studies found correlations with insulin that seemed to signify that women with PCOS who also had higher BMI levels and were considered obese had even higher levels of uric acid.
Research further analyzed hormonal levels and BMI in comparison to UA levels and found that UA levels remained higher in women with PCOS regardless of BMI. What was differentiated was that luteinizing/follicle-stimulating hormone (LH/FSH) ratio and testosterone levels were positively associated with the frequency of hyperuricemia cases in women with PCOS.
The researchers discussed reasons why uric acid levels might be higher in women affected by PCOS. Their assumption was that the change in hormones brought on by the disorder has a direct relationship with UA metabolism, which would justify why UA levels were elevated when hormonal balance was most irregular, most notably male androgens and testosterone. Although research is not conclusive and some disagreement on the subject is still present, the prevailing view is that high levels of testosterone, the most notable androgen hormone, is strongly associated with elevated UA levels and hyperuricemia.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome often have fertility issues as a result of having too many of the male androgen hormones present. This increased level of androgens appears to show correlation with the increase in UA levels, which can not only present its own health risk factors, but can compound with already existing risk factors due to PCOS and further pose health risk concerns for women with PCOS.
Lowering UA Levels to Benefit PCOS
Due to the current findings associating higher uric acid levels in women with PCOS it is believed that lowering those levels could benefit women and help in favor of alleviating PCOS symptoms and fertility. Some medical professionals even believe that elevated UA levels may be to blame for the typical signs and symptoms of PCOS such as obesity, high blood sugar and high blood pressure.
While not conclusive, enough research indicates that lowering the level of uric acid in women dealing with PCOS may be a worthwhile approach to helping improve symptoms of the condition and avoiding onset of hyperuricemia.
Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, a board-certified neurologist, states; “bringing uric acid levels down in women diagnosed with PCOS helps them to gain better control over their blood sugar, their blood pressure, and certainly their predilection for making increased levels of fat and storing the fat that they do make.”
Adjusting certain lifestyle choices could play a part in reducing the levels UA in the body. Reducing or completely cutting out alcohol, reducing fructose intake, increasing intake of vitamin C, and limiting foods containing purines such as organ meats, seafood, red meat, veal, and bacon.