Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), is a common disorder that impairs the fertility of women by impacting menstruation, ovulation, hormones, amongst other aspects, and its adverse effects are closely related to insulin levels. Women with the disorder are typically ‘insulin resistant’, producing an overabundance of insulin, which stimulates ovarian production of testosterone, thereby hindering fertility.
Prof Daniela Jakubowicz of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Diabetes Unit at Wolfson Medical Center proposes a natural way to help women of normal weight who suffer from PCOS manage their glucose and insulin levels to improve overall fertility through a maintenance meal plan, based on the body’s 24 hour metabolic cycle.
Women with PCOS who increased their calorie intake at breakfast, including high protein and carbohydrate content, and reduced their calorie intake through the rest of the day, saw a reduction in insulin resistance. This led to lower levels of testosterone and dramatic increase in the ovulation frequency – measures that have a direct impact on fertility, notes Prof Jakubowicz.
The research has been published in Clinical Science and was recently presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.
Many of the treatment options for PCOS are exclusively for obese women, Prof Jakubowicz explains. But many women who suffer from PCOS maintain a normal weight.
Prof Jakubowicz and her fellow researchers had a sample of 60 women suffering from PCOS with a normal body mass index (BMI). The women were randomly assigned to one of two 1,800 calorie maintenance diets with identical foods. The first group ate a 983 calorie breakfast, a 645 calorie lunch, and a 190 calorie dinner. The second group had a 190 calorie breakfast, a 645 calorie lunch, and 983 calorie dinner. After 90 days, the researchers tested participants in each group for insulin, glucose, and testosterone levels as well as ovulation and menstruation.
As expected, neither group experienced a change in BMI, but participants in the ‘big dinner’ group maintained consistently high levels of insulin and testosterone throughout the study, whereas those in the ‘big breakfast’ group experienced a 56 percent decrease in insulin resistance and a 50 percent decrease in testosterone. This reduction of insulin and testosterone levels led to a 50 percent rise in ovulation rate, indicated by a rise in progesterone, by the end of the study.
According to Prof Jakubowicz, these results suggest women with PCOS could manage their condition naturally, providing new hope for those who have found no solutions to their fertility issues, such as natural fertilisation, effectiveness of in vitro fertilisation treatment and miscarriages.