Impact of hormonal contraception and weight loss on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol efflux and lipoprotein particles in women with polycystic ovary syndrome

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To study the effects of oral contraceptive pills (OCP), the first-line treatment for PCOS, on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) function (reverse cholesterol efflux capacity) and lipoprotein particles measured using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in obese women.


Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial (OWL-PCOS) of OCP or Lifestyle (intensive Lifestyle modification) or Combined (OCP + Lifestyle) treatment groups for 16 weeks.


Eighty-seven overweight/obese women with PCOS at two academic centres.


Change in HDL-C efflux capacity and lipoprotein particles.


High-density lipoprotein cholesterol efflux capacity increased significantly at 16 weeks in the OCP group [0·11; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0·03, 0·18, P = 0·008] but not in the Lifestyle (P = 0·39) or Combined group (P = 0·18). After adjusting for HDL-C and TG levels, there was significant mean change in efflux in the Combined group (0·09; 95% CI 0·01, 0·15; P = 0·01). Change in HDL-C efflux correlated inversely with change in serum testosterone (rs = −0·21; P = 0·05). In contrast, OCP use induced an atherogenic low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) profile with increase in small (P = 0·006) and large LDL-particles (P = 0·002). Change in small LDL-particles correlated with change in serum testosterone (rs = −0·31, P = 0·009) and insulin sensitivity index (ISI; rs = −0·31, P = 0·02). Both Lifestyle and Combined groups did not show significant changes in the atherogenic LDL particles.


Oral contraceptive pills use is associated with improved HDL-C function and a concomitant atherogenic LDL-C profile. Combination of a Lifestyle program with OCP use improved HDL-C function and mitigated adverse effects of OCP on lipoproteins. Our study provides evidence for use of OCP in overweight/obese women with PCOS when combined with Lifestyle changes.

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