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Statins and Vitamin D Could Help Polycystic Ovaries Sufferers

Posted Nov 21 2008 4:28pm

New research into the use of statins on women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) reveal they are just as effective from reducing symptoms as the current treatment - and in some cases they have been better.

In a different trial, the hormonal condition was shown to be linked to patients with a vitamin D deficiency - an essential nutrient gained from sunlight exposure. Therefore, vitamin D supplements could help reduce sympotoms of PCOS - although as yet it has not been confirmed whether the condition is caused by a lack of vitamin D.

PCOS is a condition whereby numerous cysts develop in the ovaries and women suffer a multitude of symptoms including irregular periods, weight gain, excessive hair growth, acne, high levels of male hormones and decreased fertility.

It is estimated approximatly 10 per cent of women have the condition, while an additional 10 per cent have multiple cysts but do not have any symptoms. Celebrities suffering from the sydrome include Victoria Beckham and Jules Oliver.

PCOS can be controlled with a drug called metformin - which is more widely used to treat type 2 diabetes. Topical treatments can be used to control acne and unwanted hair.

A Polish research team, headed by Leszek Pawelczyk, of Poznan University, have looked into the effects of using statins on PCOS sufferers as an alternative. They decided to trial statins because they are currently used to reduce cholestrol in people who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease - a related risk for women with PCOS. The scientists displayed the results of the first six months of their trials at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in San Francisco.

In the study, 60 women with an average age of 25 were divided into three groups. One group recieved metformin, one was given simvastatin (marketed under the brand name Zocor), while the third group received a combination of both drugs.

On average, patients in the trial were having 2.5 periods every six months. For the group receiving the statins, their period frequency increased by 89 per cent - compared to 36 percent in the metfomin group and 68 per cent in the group taking both drugs.

In all three groups, excessive hair, weight gain, acne and testosterone levels were reduced. Within each group the drugs performed similarly for each criteria, however statins were slightly more effective for all except weight gain.

In addition, the levels of LDL cholestrol - the type which commonly causes heart disease - were reduced in the statin and combination group. The metformin group experienced no difference in LDL levels.

While simvastatin could be an effective alternative for some PCOS patients, Dr Pawelcyzk has advised it would be unsuitable for those wishing to get pregnant, as statins carry a high risk factor of causing birth defects.

He commented, “I think it’s a completely new possibility in the treatment of these patients. You can’t treat patients who want to become pregnant with statins, but if you are looking for long-term benefits, simvastatin may be a very good option.

“The conclusion is that statins are superior to metformin in regulation of menses and reduction of cardiovascular risk. They are at least equivalent for improving hyperandrogenism .”

In the vitamin D trials, Lubna Pal of Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut headed a team of scientists investigating the correlation between the nutrient and PCOS. In the study 18 women suffering from irregular periods took part.

The participants had significantly less amounts of vitamin D than infertile women without ovulation issues or PCOS. When given an increased level of vitamin D, the risk of developing PCOS dropped by 99 per cent while the risk of abnormal ovulation by 93 per cent.

Dr Pal suggested further study is required in order to determine whether vitamin D deficiency is the sole cause of PCOS, but the results certianly suggest a link. It was also suggested that a lack of vitamin S in the body could actually be an effect rather than a cause of PCOS. Vitamin D levels would decrease if women with the condition were unable to tolerate high levels of sunlight exposure or if they were more inclined to cover up during summer dues to body insecurities.

She said, “Given the pandemic of vitamin D insufficiency, if indeed our observations are substantiated, aggressive repletion with vitamin D may emerge as an alternative approach to facilitate ovulation resumption.”

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