Serum testosterone predicts cardiorespiratory fitness impairment in normal-weight women with polycystic ovary syndrome

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Limited literature has shown that maximal oxygen consumption (V'O2max), that is the maximal capacity of an individual to perform aerobic work, may be lowered in overweight/obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, it remains unclear whether this impairment is associated with PCOS per se or is entirely due to body fat excess. Our objective was to assess whether cardiorespiratory fitness is altered in normal-weight PCOS women and to investigate which factors are associated with this phenomenon.


Fifteen normal-weight PCOS women and 15 age- and BMI-matched healthy controls. Fourteen subjects in each group completed the protocol.


V'O2max and ventilatory thresholds (maximal incremental cycle ergometer test with breath-by-breath analysis of gas exchange), insulin sensitivity (hyperinsulinaemic euglycaemic clamp) and androgenaemia (serum total and free testosterone, measured by liquid chromatography mass spectrometry and equilibrium dialysis) were accurately assessed.


Maximal V'O2 and power were strikingly impaired in normal-weight PCOS individuals, as compared with healthy controls (29·4 ± 1·5 vs 35·8 ± 1·6 ml O2/kg/min, P = 0·008; 138 ± 6 vs 170 ± 10 W, P = 0·011, respectively). Similarly, oxygen consumption and power at both the first and second ventilatory thresholds were significantly lower in PCOS subjects than in healthy women. In multiple regression analysis, V'O2max was negatively predicted by serum-free testosterone levels, but not by body fat mass and glucose disposal rate (R2 = 0·45 P = 0·013).


Cardiorespiratory fitness is impaired in normal-weight PCOS women. Androgen excess but not insulin sensitivity is associated with this alteration.

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