Last month, researchers at the University of Northumbria began looking for volunteers to take part in studies looking at the effects of a compound with anti-inflammatory properties found in grapes and red wine that, they believe, may boost mental functions. The compound in question is called resveratrol, and it looks like it may also be able to address a hormone imbalance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome — a leading cause of infertility in women.
An estimated 5 to 6 million women in the United States have PCOS, according to the Hormone Health Network. It is one of the most common endocrine conditions in women of childbearing age.
Women who have PCOS produce slightly higher amounts of testosterone and other androgen hormones than average. These elevated levels can contribute to irregular or absent menstrual periods, infertility, weight gain, acne or excess hair on the face and body. Women who have PCOS also face a higher risk of developing other health problems, such as diabetes.
"Our study is the first clinical trial to find resveratrol significantly lowers PCOS patients' levels of testosterone as well as dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), another hormone that the body can convert into testosterone," said the study's senior author, Antoni J. Duleba, MD, of the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, Calif. "This nutritional supplement can help moderate the hormone imbalance that is one of the central features of PCOS."
Thirty women with PCOS completed the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted at Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poznan, Poland. The women were randomly assigned to either take a resveratrol supplement or a placebo pill daily for three months. The participants had blood samples drawn at the beginning and end of the study to determine levels of testosterone and other androgen hormones. The women also underwent an oral glucose tolerance test at the start and conclusion of the study to measure diabetes risk factors.
The researchers found total testosterone levels fell by 23.1% among the women who received the resveratrol supplement. In comparison, testosterone levels increased 2.9% in the placebo group. DHEAS declined by 22.2% in the resveratrol group, while the placebo group experienced a 10.5% increase in DHEAS levels.
In addition to moderating androgen hormones, the women who received resveratrol showed improvement in diabetes risk factors. Among the resveratrol group, fasting insulin levels dropped by 31.8% during the three-month study. The researchers also found the women who received resveratrol during the study became more responsive to the hormone insulin over the course of the study.
"The findings suggest resveratrol can improve the body's ability to use insulin and potentially lower the risk of developing diabetes," Duleba said. "The supplement may be able to help reduce the risk of metabolic problems common in women with PCOS."