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Project Abstract: Consuming Pulses to Manage the Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder affecting 5-12% of young women. Women with PCOS have irregular menstrual cycles, abnormal ovarian function (which affects ability to become pregnant), and elevated levels of male hormones. Although the cause is not fully understood, most women with PCOS have high levels of insulin which is a hormone that can increase the odds of developing diabetes, abdominal fat, and high blood cholesterol. Pulse-based diets (i.e. diets high in legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas) are effective for lowering insulin; thus our aim was to determine whether a pulse-based diet was equally or more effective than a standard healthy low-fat diet for improving body composition, liver fat levels, measures of ability to become pregnant, and blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, we aimed to determine whether the make-up of an individual’s genes could improve response to the study diets. A diagnosis of PCOS was made by an obstetrics-gynecologist and required the presence of two of the three diagnostic criteria as defined by the Rotterdam consensus: a self-reported history of menstrual cycles >35 days in length, elevated male hormones levels, and polycystic ovaries. Eighty-six women with PCOS aged 18-35 years were enrolled in the study with 50 completing the pulse-based diet (n=26) or the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) diet (n=25) for 16 weeks while participating in an exercise program. Prior to starting the intervention, participants met with a registered dietitian who explained the TLC diet and discussed a four-day food record previously given to participants. All women followed the TLC diet for two weeks leading up to the intervention in order to control for differences in baseline blood measures that may be influenced by diet. During the intervention, all women randomized to the pulse based diet received two pre-made pulse based meals per day. Participants also received a gym orientation and all women were instructed to exercise for 45 min, five days per week, with three exercise sessions per week at the research gym facility. All women were also given log books to record daily exercise and compliance with the diet. Measures were also repeated at six and 12 months following completion of the intervention to determine whether participants continue to follow the “standard of care” recommendations (i.e. TLC diet and exercise) and for those randomized to the pulse-based diet if they continue to consume pulses. Preliminary results have shown that following the diets, body weight relative to height and percent body fat was reduced in both groups. Muscle mass, as a percentage of total body mass, was higher in the arms and legs following the diets. The diets also led to improvements in menstrual function, indicating that ability to become pregnant was improved. The pulse based diet led to better cholesterol levels compared to the TLC diet. A pulse-based diet is as effective as the NCEP’s TLC diet for improving body composition and measures of ability to become pregnant while a pulse-based is more effective at improving blood cholesterol levels.


Project lead: Dr. Gordon Zello (306) 966-5825 gaz511@campus.usask.ca


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