Dietary changes may help improve fertility for women with PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that affects approximately 5-10% of women and may cause infertility. Common symptoms include excessive weight, excess facial or body hair, anovulatory menstrual cycles (e.g., infrequent ovulation), mood swings, and metabolic disturbances (e.g., insulin resistance, higher levels of male hormone, high cholesterol). Women with PCOS may be prescribed medications such as Metformin, and advised to make lifestyle changes including daily exercise, weight management, and in some cases dietary supplements, to help regulate their menstrual cycles.

In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that dietary changes may help women with PCOS improve their fertility. A recent study suggests that eating a larger breakfast and smaller dinner may help women with PCOS control their insulin levels, which has a beneficial effect on their fertility. In this study 60 women diagnosed with PCOS who had a normal body mass index (BMI), were randomly assigned to two groups. Participants in one group ingested 980 calories at breakfast, 640 calories at lunch, and 190 calories at dinner. In contrast, participants in the other group ingested 190 calories at breakfast, 640 calories at lunch, and 980 calories at dinner. After 90 days, insulin, testosterone and glucose levels were tested for each participant. Researchers also analyzed participants’ ovulation and menstruation information.

The results indicated that those women who ingested more calories at breakfast were found to have 56% less insulin resistance and a 50% decrease in testosterone levels, as well as a 50% rise in rates of ovulation. In contrast, the insulin and testosterone levels of women who ingested more calories at dinner remained high. BMI was not found to differ between the two groups.

Lead researcher, Dr. Daniela Jacubowicz, suggests that this pattern of eating may be more consistent with the body’s natural 24-hour metabolic cycle resulting in better management of women’s insulin levels. She also suggests that this diet may improve other symptoms associated with PCOS (e.g., oily skin, hair loss, acne). 

To read more about PCOS, click here, here.

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