A common disorder that affects fertility by producing too much insulin can be treated naturally through meal timing. Research shows that eating more calories at breakfast can lead to lower testosterone levels and an extreme increase in ovulation frequency in women with PCOS.
How Mealtimes and PCOS are Related
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common condition that affects fertility by affecting menstruation, ovulation, hormones and more, is closely related to insulin levels. PCOS affects approximately 6 to 10 percent of all women of childbearing age and has negative impact on fertility. Women with this disorder are typically “insulin resistant” — their bodies produce excess insulin to move glucose from the blood to the muscles. The excess goes to the ovaries, where it stimulates testosterone production, thereby affecting fertility.
Researchers from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and the Diabetes Unit at Wolfson Medical Center have found a natural way to help women of normal weight who suffer from PCOS to manage their glucose and insulin levels to improve overall fertility. According to the researchers, the key to success is the right timing. The goal of her nutritional maintenance plan, which is based on the body’s 24-hour metabolic cycle, is not weight loss, but insulin management. Women with PCOS who increased their calorie intake at breakfast, including high protein and carbohydrates, and reduced their calorie intake for the rest of the day achieved a reduction in insulin resistance. This resulted in lower testosterone levels and a sharp increase in ovulation frequency. Healthy ovulation is essential for good fertility.
Many of the treatment options for PCOS are aimed exclusively at overweight women. Doctors advise weight loss to control insulin levels or prescribe medications that are used to improve insulin levels in obese patients. But many women who suffer from PCOS have normal weight and are looking for ways to improve their chances of conceiving.
A Large Breakfast Lowers Insulin Levels and Leads to Better Ovulation
In their study, researchers confirmed that a low-calorie eating plan that focuses on a large breakfast and a smaller dinner also lowers insulin, glucose, and triglyceride levels. This finding inspired the experts to test whether a similar diet plan could be an effective therapeutic option for women with PCOS. 60 women with PCOS and a normal body mass index (BMI) were randomly assigned to one of two 1,800-calorie maintenance schedules 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 a 983-calorie dinner. After 90 days, the researchers tested the 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 other measures differed dramatically. While participants in the big dinner group maintained consistently high insulin and testosterone levels throughout the study, participants in the big breakfast group experienced a 56 percent decrease in insulin resistance and a 50 percent decrease in testosterone. This reduction in insulin and testosterone levels resulted in a 50 percent increase in ovulation rate at the end of the study, due to an increase in progesterone.
According to the researchers, these findings suggest that meal timing — particularly an eating plan that involves consuming the majority of daily calories at breakfast and reducing calories throughout the day — could help women with PCOS to manage their condition naturally and offers new hope for those who have not found a solution to their fertility problems. In addition to inhibiting natural fertilization, PCOS also impairs the effectiveness of in vitro treatments and increases miscarriage rates. Other symptoms associated with the disorder may also be alleviated, including unwanted body hair, greasy hair, hair loss, and acne. It also inhibits the development of type 2 diabetes. According to the researchers, while the amount of calories we eat each day is very important, when we eat is even more important.