According to a new study, women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can benefit from exercise and electro-acupuncture treatments because these treatments reduce sympathetic nerve activity. This finding is significant because elevated sympathetic nerve activity plays a role in hyperinsulinemia (a condition in which there are excess levels of circulating insulin in the blood), insulin resistance, and weight gain, problems for women with PCOS.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders, affecting an estimated 10% of women of reproductive age.
The study also found that the electro-acupuncture treatments led to more regular menstrual cycles, reduced testosterone levels and reduced waist circumference. “The findings that low-frequency electro-acupuncture and exercise decrease sympathetic nerve activity in women with PCOS indicates a possible alternative non-pharmacologic approach to reduce cardiovascular risk in these patients,” said one of the researchers, Dr. Elisabet Stener-Victorin of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
The study was small, including 20 women with an average age of 30 years, divided into 3 groups: (1) low-frequency electro-acupuncture; (2) exercise; and (3) untreated controls.
Group (1) received 14 treatments during the 16-week study. Group (2) received pulse watches and were told to exercise regularly 3 days a week for 30 minutes. Group (3) was instructed on the importance of exercise and a healthy diet, the same instructions the experimental groups received, but were not specifically assigned to do anything differently.
After 16 weeks,
Both the (1) acupuncture and (2) exercise groups significantly decreased muscle sympathetic nerve activity compared to the control group.
The (1) acupuncture group experienced a drop in waist size, but not in body mass index or weight. Only the acupuncture group experienced fewer menstrual irregularities and there was a significant drop in testosterone.
The (2) exercise group experienced a drop in weight and body mass index but not in waist size.
The study by Stener-Victorin, E., et al, “Low-frequency electro-acupuncture and physical is in the online edition of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, published by The American Physiological Society.