Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder
in the function of an endocrine gland that affects
the ovaries (
Considering the magnitude and consequences of PCOS compounded by the social apprehensions related to the nature of problem, it is important to assess its occurrence in the young adults. University female students constitute a homogenous group of population whose outreach is feasible and they are the future mothers of the society. Ironically, university students may appear healthy and not realize that they have PCOS until problems in conceiving are encountered during marriage. Lack of information about association of PCOS with other health parameters and unawareness of its diagnostic criteria may have a major impact on the presence of this disease among university females. Therefore, the objectives of the present study were to assess the occurrence of PCOS and to study its association with body composition among female students at University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
A cross-sectional study was conducted at University
of Sharjah in United Arab Emirates between
January 2012 and June 2012. All female students
registering in undergraduate programs at the
University of Sharjah were included in the present
study. However, those students who were pregnant
at the time of the survey period were excluded. Accordingly,
fifty female students were selected using
the convenience sampling technique (
A pretested interview schedule was administered to collect information from the subjects. Herein, the students provided demographic information that included personal information (age, college and marital status); medical history related to PCOS; status of menstrual cycle like normal (bleeding at intervals between 22 to 40 days intervals), oligomenorrhea (bleeding at intervals of greater than 40 days) and polymenorrhea (bleeding at intervals of less than 22 days); use of hormonal pills; family history of PCOS; perception of body weight; and attempt to lose weight. Body composition data were also collected systematically at the initial clinic visit.
The required measurements were taken as follows:
i. body composition of the participants was
determined using the bioelectrical impedance
technology (Biospace Co. Ltd., Seoul, Korea); ii.
body mass index (BMI) was calculated in kg/m2
and defined according to World Health Organization
Polycystic ovary was defined as the presence of at least 1 ovary at >10 cm3 in volume and/or at least 1 ovary with ≥12 follicles that measured 2-9 mm in diameter. Ovarian assessments were made using an ultrasound instrument (Siemens, Erlangen, Germany). The procedure of the instrument manufacturer was followed.
Data obtained were statistically analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS: SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) software version 17. Descriptive data were reported as means ± SD. Demographic and medical history variables were expressed in frequencies and percentages. Significance of difference in the variables between participants with or without PCOS was determined using student’s t test. A p value of less than 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.
Demographic characteristics of the participants are given in table 1. Among participants, 72% were from the medical and health sciences colleges and 28% were from other different colleges. The age of the participants ranged from 17 to 23 years with the mean age of 19.4 years. Only one out of 50 participants was married. Her gynecology history revealed that she had para 1- one live child.
Demographic characteristics of participants (n=50)
|Medical and health colleges||72 (36)|
|Other colleges||28 (14)|
The distribution of participants according to medical history related to PCOS is presented in table 2.
Medical history revealed that the status of menstrual cycle was normal in majority (80%) of the participants, while the finding showed that 16% had oligomenorrhea, 4% had polymenorrhea, and none had amenorrhea. Out of these, 8% had been dealing with PCOS for more than two years, 6% for over a year, and another 4% for less than 6 months. Glucose intolerance was reported in 2%, while 14% described other associated problem, specified as anemia. Twelve percent of participants took hormone pills for regularizing their menstrual cycles. While 8% of participants were on the treatment for less than 6 months, 4% were on treatment between 6 months to a year.
Ironically, only 8% of participants were previously diagnosed with PCOS, 76% had not been diagnosed earlier, and 16 % were unaware of any previous diagnosis of PCOS. About 22% showed to have the positive family history, 76% had no family history, and 2% were unaware of their family history regarding occurrence of PCOS. Amongst the individuals with positive family history, 8% reported in their mothers and sisters, 4% in cousins and 6% in their aunts. Thirty percent of participants reported to have difficulties in maintaining normal weight. When enquired about their perception of body weight, two-third of them confessed that they perceived their body weight as "normal", 14% as "underweight", 18% as "overweight" and 4% as "obese".
During the last one year, weight loss was attempted by almost half of the participants (n=24). Out of these, 16 % sought out professional support for losing weight during this period. The ultrasound scan results confirmed the diagnosis of PCOS in 10 out of 50 participants (20%).
The means and standard deviations of body composition variables of the participants are represented in table 3. In addition, significance of difference between the group with PCOS and that without PCOS is presented for each variable.
The weight of the participants ranged from 39 kg to 98 kg, with a mean weight of 60 ± 11 kg. Participants with PCOS (66.7 kg) were found to be significantly heavier than those without it (58.8 kg) (p=0.043, t=2.08).
Mean BMI of the participants was 22.9 ± 3.5 ranging from 16.5 to 31.3. Almost three-fourths of the total students were categorized as "normal", while BMI of 26% was above normal. Participants with PCOS had higher BMI than those without it; however, no significant difference was found.
As evident from the table 3, the mean values of WHR, PBF, FFM, and VFA were found to be higher in participants with PCOS in contrast to those without PCOS. However, statistically significant difference could not be established at p<0.05.
BMD of the participants, on an average, was 2.3 ± 0.28 g/cm2 and it ranged from 1.8 to 3.1 ± 0.28 g/cm2. There was no significant difference between the BMD of those with PCOS and those without it at p<0.05.
Medical history of participants related to PCOS (n=50)
|Glucose intolerance||2 (1)|
|Doesn’t know||2 (1)|
PCOS; Polycystic ovary syndrome.
Means and standard deviations of body composition variables in participants with PCOS and those without PCOS
|Variables||With PCOS||Without PCOS||t||P value|
|66.75± 14.4||58.85± 9.7||2.08||0.043*|
|24.15± 3.9||22.65± 3.43||1.21||0.230|
|0. 87 ± 0.06||0.845± 0.04||1.82||0.076|
|36.85± 8.7||33.75± 6.8||1.20||0.235|
|48.15± 12.4||43.15± 10.6||1.28||0.207|
|77.65± 26.3||64.95± 28.0||1.29||0.202|
|2.315± 0.21||2.335± 0.30||0.173||0.863|
*; Significant at p<0.05 and PCOS; Polycystic ovary syndrome.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common endocrine disturbance that affects women. The aim of this study was to assess the occurrence of PCOS and its association with body composition among students in University of Sharjah. Our study reported that oligomenorrhea occurred in 16% of female students. Avvad et al. (
The prevalence of PCOS (20%), based on our ultrasound findings, is consistent with those of other studies reporting prevalence of PCOS (8-33%) in women of reproductive age (
The prevalence of PCOS in the present study is consistent with the global occurrence. Comparatively, the body composition of PCOS females is different from the normal females in terms of favoring more body weight, body fat, WHR and BMI. On the other hand, BMD is lesser in PCOS females than their normal counterparts. However, the further studies are needed in the Middle East region on larger sample sizes and broader aspects of health including the lifestyle and dietary components to understand the differences in weight in females suffering from PCOS.