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What You Need to Know About PCOS


6.8 million women diagnosed with the disorder

From Florida Hospital - Apopka

Are you one of the 6.8 million women in the U.S. diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)? If you are, you may want to talk to your doctor about adding the supplement resveratrol to your treatment regiment. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shows promising signs that resveratrol can lower testosterone in women with PCOS.

We spoke to Florida Hospital Endocrinologist Carmina Charles, MD, who said the results of the study are promising. Thirty women with PCOS were randomly assigned to take 1,500 mg of a resveratrol supplement or a placebo pill daily for three months. Blood samples were drawn at the beginning and end of the study to measure testosterone and other androgen hormones. The women also were tested for glucose tolerance at the start and end of the study to measure diabetes risk factors.

Carmina Doris Charles, MDEndocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Internal Medicine

At the end of the study, researchers found testosterone levels dropped by 23.1 percent in women who received the resveratrol supplement. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) — a hormone in the body that can convert into testosterone —also declined by 22.2 percent in the resveratrol group. Even more interesting, the women in the resveratrol group saw a 31.8 percent drop in fasting insulin levels.

PCOS, a hormonal endocrine disorder, is the leading cause of infertility in women. It is also linked to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Trace levels of resveratrol, part of a group of plant compounds called polyphenols, is found in red wine, grape skins and nuts. It is not known whether resveratrol directly reduced the androgen hormones in the study, or if it was the result of lower insulin levels (which can cause metabolic disease).

PCOS Diagnosis

“Women are most often diagnosed with PCOS when they’re trying to get pregnant,” explains Dr. Charles. “They tend to be put on birth control in their teens because of heavy bleeding or they’re not having their menstrual cycle.” When they meet a partner who they want to start a family with and stop taking birth control, they have difficulty conceiving. Only then do they start having blood work done to figure out why they can’t get pregnant — usually in their 20s.

Different women present with different symptoms, so it can may be harder to diagnose PCOS. Some of the symptoms may include:

High testosterone levels

Male-pattern baldness/hair loss


Weight gain or obesity

Unwanted hair growth

PCOS’s exact cause is not known, but it is highly related to insulin resistance, genetics and obesity, according to the Hormone Health Network. Left untreated, women with PCOS are at risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and endometrial cancer (due to an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone).

What Are Treatment Options?

In addition to lifestyle modifications and regular exercise, Dr. Charles also has her patients decrease the amount of carbohydrates in their diets because of its link to insulin resistance. “The ovaries are very sensitive to insulin, which causes them to produce more testosterone,” Dr. Charles says. “So if we’re able to decrease insulin levels, we see a lot of improvement in other areas as well.”

As for medications, Dr. Charles often prescribes medications to help with insulin and hair growth. Though hair growth doesn’t stop, it does slow down with medication. A patient who has to shave daily may spend less time doing so, or a patient who shaves every few days may be able to go a week.

Hope is Not Lost

Many women with PCOS are told they can’t have kids, so they feel hopeless. But the reality is that a lot of women with PCOS do have children. “If we’re able to establish a regular cycle, there’s still hope,” Dr. Charles explains. “Sometimes they may need assistance getting pregnant but it’s still a possibility.”

Florida Hospital - Apopka, PCOS


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