Sophie Lalonde-Bester

Supervisor: Donna Vine

Project: Eating disorders in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome

“I am surprised at the interconnectedness of all the mechanisms underlying the increased risk of eating disorders in PCOS.”

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormone-menstrual disorder in women. It affects 10 per cent of women across the lifespan. The diagnosis of PCOS includes having two out of three of the following criteria: excess androgens (a group of sex hormones), irregular periods and/or polycystic ovaries. We have found that in Alberta, PCOS is associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health conditions. We have also found that women with PCOS experience challenges with body weight, diet and nutrition, body image, anxiety and depression. Eating disorders have been reported in PCOS and are associated with altered nutrition status and mental health conditions. Currently, eating disorders are not well understood in PCOS and there are very limited data on the topic in Canada.    

The aim of this research project is to investigate the current state of knowledge, prevalence and types of eating disorders in Canadian women with PCOS. We will undertake a review of the scientific literature to determine the incidence, types and possible causes of eating disorders in PCOS. We will also develop a survey to determine the incidence and types of eating disorders in a group of Canadian women living with PCOS. We will adapt existing eating disorder assessment tools to develop a survey in our established Canadian PCOS group. Finally, we will conduct the survey and obtain preliminary data on eating disorders.     

Expected outcomes will include generating a review of the literature on eating disorders and the first data in Canada on the prevalence and types of eating disorders in PCOS. We envision the data generated will lead to future research and development of patient education and improved health-care resources for those living with eating disorders and PCOS.

Sophie Lalonde-Bester was supervised by Donna Vine and her summer studentship was funded by the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation. She is enrolled in the Doctor of Medicine program.