Exercise and electro acupuncture treatments can reduce sympathetic nerve activity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), revealed by researchers.
The finding is important because women with PCOS often have elevated sympathetic nerve activity, which plays a role in hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
The study also found that the electro-acupuncture treatments led to more regular menstrual cycles, reduced testosterone levels and reduced waist circumference.
Exercise had no effect on the irregular or non-existent menstrual cycles that are common among women with PCOS, nor did it reduce waist circumference. However, exercise did lead to reductions in weight and body mass index.
“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 findings regarding menstrual cycles and decrease in testosterone levels in the low-frequency electro-acupuncture are also of interest, according to the researcher.
The study, “Low-frequency electro-acupuncture and physical exercise decrease high muscle sympathetic nerve activity in polycystic ovary syndrome” was conducted by Elisabet Stener-Victorin, Elizabeth Jedel, Per Olof Janson and Vrsa Bergmann Sverrisdottir, all of the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. The study is in the online edition of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, published by The American Physiological Society.
The researchers measured the muscle sympathetic nerve activity before and after the 16-week study. Following treatment, the study found the following:
– Both the acupuncture and exercise groups significantly decreased muscle sympathetic nerve activity compared to the control group.
– The acupuncture group experienced a drop in waist size, but not a drop in body mass index or weight.
– The exercise group experienced a drop in weight and body mass index but not in waist size.
– The acupuncture group experienced fewer menstrual irregularities but the exercise group’s irregularities did not change.
– In the acupuncture group, there was a significant drop in testosterone. This is an important indicator because the strongest independent predictor of high sympathetic nerve activity in women is the level of testosterone.
“This is the first study to demonstrate that repeated low-frequency electro-acupuncture and physical exercise can reduce high sympathetic nerve activity seen in women with PCOS,” according to the authors. “Furthermore, both therapies decreased measures of obesity while only low-frequency electro-acupuncture improved menstrual bleeding pattern.”
Source: American Physiological Society, USA