Study: Metformin use during adolescence may help girls delay, prevent PCOS

NEW YORK — A study slated to appear in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a publication of the Endocrine Society, found that adolescent girls that take the diabetes drug metformin may prevent or delay the development of polycystic ovary syndrome, a common cause of infertility.

The study, led by Lourdes Ibáñez, professor of pediatrics at the University of Barcelona, noted that PCOS typically develops during adolescence and compared the efficacy of early versus late metformin treatment to prevent adolescent PCOS. Among 38 girls with low birth weight and early puberty, 19 of them that were 8 years of age were treated with daily doses of metformin for four years, while the other half of subjects began receiving daily doses of metformin at age 13 and continued treatment for just one year.

Researchers found that early metformin therapy prevented or delayed the development of hirsutism, androgen excess and PCOS more effectively than late metformin treatment. Ibáñez and colleagues said that excessive weight gain that occurs in adolescence may overexpose the ovaries to insulin, thus boosting the PCOS risk among female adolescents.

“Metformin, when given across the potentially critical window of puberty, may have the capacity to reprogram metabolism toward less abdominal and liver fat,” Ibáñez said. “In the years ahead, the focus of attention should shift from late treatment of PCOS and its complications, toward the early and large-scale prevention of PCOS, with measures such as diet, exercise and metformin in young girls.”

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