Not since the health benefits of chocolate were announced has there been such enthusiasm about research results. Scientists now say that resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, can help alleviate symptoms of PCOS and much more.
What is resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a powerful phytoalexin found in peanuts, nuts, many berries, Japanese knotweed, the skin of red grapes, and red wine. Phytoalexins are antimicrobial compounds produced as part of a plant’s defense system against disease and in response to an invading fungus stress, injury, or infection. It also helps them withstand drought or lack of nutrients. Resveratrol specifically has noted anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-aging and cardioprotective properties in humans.
How does it help with PCOS?
Women with PCOS typically produce more testosterone and other androgens than other women. This androgen excess causes many of our most common symptoms including irregular or missing periods, infertility, weight gain, hirsutism (excess body hair) and acne.
In a recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found that resveratrol can lower levels of testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) which the body can convert into testosterone. In fact, the senior author of the study, Antoni J. Duleba, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, says, “This nutritional supplement can help moderate the hormone imbalance that is one of the central features of PCOS.”
In fact, Duleba reports that the decline in hormone levels was greater than what they found with , a common band-aid for PCOS symptoms. The research team is hopeful that resveratrol will help restore normal cycles and improve fertility in the long term. That’s great news for women who are trying to conceive or are concerned about the side effects or short term solution of the pill. Resveratrol may be a natural alternative.
Resveratrol and Diabetes Risk
The news gets even better. Women in the study who received resveratrol showed improvement in diabetes risk factors. Their fasting insulin levels dropped by nearly 32%, and the women became more responsive to insulin. This prompted the researchers to report that, “Resveratrol significantly reduced ovarian and adrenal androgens. This effect may be, at least in part, related to an improvement of insulin sensitivity and a decline of insulin level.”
“The findings suggest resveratrol can improve the body’s ability to use insulin and potentially lower the risk of developing diabetes. The supplement may be able to help reduce the risk of metabolic problems common in women with PCOS.” -Antoni J. Duleba, MD
This isn’t only this study that is finding hopeful results. In a 2013 study, researchers found that “resveratrol supplementation exerted strong antidiabetic effects in patients with type 2 diabetes” including significantly decreased systolic blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, insulin, and insulin resistance, while HDL was significantly increased. As far back as 2011, research studies were beginning to show that “resveratrol improves insulin sensitivity in humans.”
Since the early 1990s, scientists have been exploring the effects of resveratrol on health in answer to the “French Paradox.” How is it that the French eat a diet high in fat, but have a low incidence of heart disease? The answer seems to be the resveratrol in their red wine. Since women with PCOS are at increased risk of cardiovascular problems, the combined hormonal, insulin and cardiovascular benefits of resveratrol are especially promising.
What is the best way to take resveratrol?
The bad news in this research is that you can’t drink the amount of wine to equal the resveratrol supplement used in the trials. It would be about 100-200 liters a day, says Duleba. On the upside, you can take resveratrol in supplement form and still drink your favorite pinot noir (the best source of resveratrol in wine) with no risk.
To get the most benefit from resveratrol, take it in the morning with breakfast. Studies suggest you should avoid eating fatty foods at the same meal since it will reduce the effectiveness of the resveratrol. Consumption of alcohol or of quercetin (another polyphenol) does not affect absorption.
Until recently, all of the testing of resveratrol has been on mice, so the required dosage must be scaled. The amounts used in one successful mouse study were approximately 22.4 mg/kg body weight per day. Scaling this amount to human body weights could imply an equivalent human dose of 1.5 to 2.0 grams/day. However, if one compensates for the fact that humans have slower metabolic rates than mice, an equivalent human dose may be closer to 200 mg/day.
Finally, be certain that your supplement is trans-resveratrol. This is the type of resveratrol used in the studies and proven effective.
So, go forth and drink red wine! But first, take your resveratrol supplement.
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