Resveratrol, a polyphenol found naturally in grape skins and red wine, has shown potential for addressing a hormone imbalance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
PCOS affects about one in 10 women of childbearing age worldwide. It causes women to produce elevated levels of testosterone and other hormones called androgens, such as dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). These elevated levels can contribute to infertility, weight gain and menstrual irregularities; they also increase the risk of developing health problems such as diabetes.
"There are very few treatments [for PCOS] that can lower androgen levels, and usually those treatments result in an inability to conceive," explained the study's senior author, Antoni Duleba of the University of California at San Diego, citing hormonal birth-control pills as one such treatment. "Resveratrol, on the other hand, is a natural additive and appears to have no adverse effects."
Thirty women diagnosed with PCOS participated in the study, conducted at Poland's Poznan University of Medical Sciences. Each woman was given either a resveratrol supplement or a placebo pill every day for three months. The participants had blood samples taken before and after the trial to record their levels of testosterone and DHEAS. The women also took oral glucose tolerance tests at the beginning and end of the study to measure diabetes risk factors.
Among the women who received the resveratrol supplement, total testosterone levels declined by 23.1 percent, and DHEAS levels fell by 22.2 percent. In contrast, the placebo group saw a 2.9 percent rise in testosterone levels and a 10.5 percent rise in DHEAS levels. Women taking resveratrol also became more responsive to insulin throughout the duration of the study.
"This is promising because this kind of decline in hormone levels is even greater than what we observed after testing with birth-control pills," Duleba told Wine Spectator. "It is too early to know whether this treatment will result in restoration of regular cycles or if it is going to improve fertility, but we are hoping it will."
As with most resveratrol-related research, the results can't be replicated through wine consumption. "The bad news is that to get the equivalent amount of resveratrol, you'd have to drink between 100 to 200 liters of wine a day," said Duleba. However, he did note that between resveratrol and other antioxidants in red wine, there could still be health benefits to sipping your favorite Pinot Noir in moderation.