A recent study has shown that physical exercise and weight loss can help boost fertility among women affected by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS, the main factor of female infertility, is a hormonal disorder shared by 5 million women in the U.S., according to the Office of Women’s Health, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It occurs when the body releases greater quantities of male hormones (androgens) such as testosterone and DHEAS.
As a result of this endocrine imbalance, women experience irregular or absent menstruation, acne, weight gain, oily skin and excessive hair growth. Moreover, this syndrome greatly disrupts the development and release of eggs during ovulation, leaving women unable to conceive.
Nowadays, women affected by this hormonal issue frequently resort to birth control pills so that they can have normal menstrual cycles and reduce androgen levels. These treatments are carried out with the ultimate goal of improving ovulation and assisting the patients in getting pregnant.
However, given how many Americans suffer the consequences of this disorder, experts set out to see if exercise and a healthy diet could optimize fertility among those who have PCOS even further.
The study, conducted by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, Pennsylvania, included 149 subjects, aged between 18 and 40. The participants suffered from PCOS and were overweight but had no other underlying health conditions.
At the beginning, they were randomly assigned by experts to three separate groups. For a period of 4 months, the first group took oral contraceptives, the second group made lifestyle changes, while the third one combined the two methods.
Eventually, 5 out of 49 of the subjects in the first category gave birth, in contrast to 13 out of 50 in the second group, and 12 out of 50 in the third.
It was established that those subjects who were taking birth control pills and had been following a more active way of living were more predisposed to ovulate, compared to those who were just taking contraceptives.
Basically, taking up physical exercise and adopting a healthy diet were greatly beneficial in improving female fertility. In addition, scientists also discovered that participants who had made lifestyle changes had lower levels of triglycerides and superior insulin sensitivity, lowering thus their diabetes risk.
“The research indicates preconception weight loss and exercise improve women’s reproductive and metabolic health”, explained Richard Legro, study co-author and professor of obstetrics, gynecology and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine.
The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, aren’t exactly surprising to researchers. Medical experts had long suspected that switching from a sedentary lifestyle might heighten women’s chances of successfully conceiving babies, but now this theory has been scientifically proven.
Following these study results, researchers also warn that oral contraceptives may actually “worsen the metabolic profile”, without causing any improvement to ovulation.
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