Hebrew U, TAU researchers: Timing of meals can help infertile women suffering from PCOS

Eating a nutritious breakfast has a positive effect on infertile women suffering from poly-cystic ovary syndrome.

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October 1, 2013 22:18
2 minute read.
breakfast

breakfast. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Eating a nutritious breakfast in the morning can have a positive effect on infertile women suffering from poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but consuming the same food in the evening does not have the same benefit, according to Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University researchers who recently published their findings in the journal Clinical Science.

“The research clearly demonstrates that indeed the amount of calories we consume daily is very important, but the timing as to when we consume them is even more important,” stated Prof. Oren Froy, director of the Nutrigenomics and Functional Foods Research Center at HU’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

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In recent years, nutritional research has found that one’s body weight is affected not only by the level of calorie intake, but also by whether the high-calorie foods are eaten in the morning or evening. According to new research – conducted by Froy, Ma’ayan Barnea of HU’s Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition, and Prof. Daniela Jocabovitz and diabetes expert Dr. Julio Weinstein of TAU and Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center – a substantial breakfast can also increase fertility among women who suffer menstrual irregularities.

PCOS affects 6-10 percent of women of reproductive age, making it difficult to conceive.

The syndrome creates resistance to insulin, leading to an increase in male sex hormones (androgens). It can also cause menstrual irregularities; hair loss on the scalp notwithstanding an increase in body hair; acne; fertility problems; and eventual diabetes.

The experiment was carried out at Wolfson on 60 women, ages 25-39, over a 12-week period. Thin, with a BMI (body mass index) of less than 23, they all had PCOS.

Divided into two groups, they consumed about 1,800 calories a day, with the difference being the timing of their largest meal. One group consumed the largest meal, approximately 980 calories, at breakfast, and the other at dinner.

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The focus was on whether the schedule of caloric intake affects insulin resistance and an increase in androgens among women with PCOS.

The women kept records of exactly what they ate.

The findings showed improved results for the group that consumed a big breakfast. Glucose levels and insulin resistance decreased by 8%, while the second group (“dinner”) showed no change. Another discovery was that among the “breakfast” group, levels of testosterone (one of the androgens) dropped by nearly 50%, while the “dinner” group’s level stayed neutral. In addition, there was a much higher rate of ovulating women within the “breakfast group” compared to the “dinner” group, demonstrating that a hearty breakfast can lead to an increase in the level of fertility among woman with PCOS.

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