Pathophysiological Effects of Contemporary Lifestyle on Evolutionary-Conserved Survival Mechanisms in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is increasingly being characterized as an evolutionary mismatch disorder that presents with a complex mixture of metabolic and endocrine symptoms. The Evolutionary Model proposes that PCOS arises from a collection of inherited polymorphisms that have been consistently demonstrated in a variety of ethnic groups and races. In utero developmental programming of susceptible genomic variants are thought to predispose the offspring to develop PCOS. Postnatal exposure to lifestyle and environmental risk factors results in epigenetic activation of developmentally programmed genes and disturbance of the hallmarks of health. The resulting pathophysiological changes represent the consequences of poor-quality diet, sedentary behaviour, endocrine disrupting chemicals, stress, circadian disruption, and other lifestyle factors. Emerging evidence suggests that lifestyle-induced gastrointestinal dysbiosis plays a central role in the pathogenesis of PCOS. Lifestyle and environmental exposures initiate changes that result in disturbance of the gastrointestinal microbiome (dysbiosis), immune dysregulation (chronic inflammation), altered metabolism (insulin resistance), endocrine and reproductive imbalance (hyperandrogenism), and central nervous system dysfunction (neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous system). PCOS can be a progressive metabolic condition that leads to obesity, gestational diabetes, type two diabetes, metabolic-associated fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. This review explores the mechanisms that underpin the evolutionary mismatch between ancient survival pathways and contemporary lifestyle factors involved in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of PCOS.

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