Episode 17: Why is the number of women with PCOS increasing if it’s a genetic condition?
The number of women with PCOS has now been estimated to be 1 in 5. Until now it’s been estimated to be 1 in 10 and only a couple of decades ago, it was 1 in 50. So what’s causing this, if PCOS is a genetic condition?
Genes can’t change this much between generations, at the most, we’ll have a handful of changes from generation to generation, so the only explanation (aside from the issue of potential over diagnosis, which we won’t get into today) is our environment.
A few weeks ago I was reading a research study titled: “The evolutionary origins of PCOS: An environmental mismatch disorder” and it completely hit the mark when explaining why this was happening.
The researcher, Mia Charifson joins me on today’s podcast to explain her research and how PCOS is a condition of our genetics just not playing nicely with our current environment.
Mia is a student and researcher in Evolutionary Biology at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University. She’s spent a lot of time looking at all the current research in PCOS to try and piece together this puzzle from an evolutionary perspective.
We also talk a lot about what the solution to this is- how we can change the food we eat, how we move, our stress levels, how much sleep we’re getting and our vitamin and mineral levels- but also why there isn’t a ‘one size fits all solution’.
Highlights, takeaways and quick wins:
-Our genes predispose us to PCOS- no questions there
-These genes that predispose us were likely not necessarily an advantage in our paleolithic era, but just ‘neutral’
-However these genes can be negative in our current environment of abundance of (particularly manufactured) food and too little movement
-There is a solution to this, we can change the food we eat, how we move, our stress levels, how much sleep we’re getting and our vitamin and mineral levels
-There isn’t a ‘one size fits all solution’
-Our immune system and inflammation are a driver of PCOS
-Medications can help- but they don’t change this environment so we need to do both
If you want to read the paper, you can find that here.
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