A compound present in the skin of grapes and red wine may help correct hormone imbalance in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS.

In a new study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers reported that the natural compound in red wine called resveratrol can restore estrogen levels. The findings may help improve treatments for PCOS, which affects between 5 million to 6 million women in the United States alone.

PCOS, one of the most common endocrine disorders, is the leading cause of infertility among women. Women with PCOS have higher levels of testosterone and other androgen hormones that can turn into cysts in the ovary.

The higher levels of these hormones in women with PCOS can be a factor that causes irregular and even absent menstrual periods, weight gain, infertility, acne and excess hair on the body and face. Women with PCOS also face elevated risks of developing other health problems such as type 2 diabetes.

One study even showed a possible effect of the disease on the sufferers' offspring. Women with PCOS have an increased risk of giving birth to children at high risk of developing autism spectrum disorders.

For the new study, researchers analyzed blood samples that were taken from 30 women with PCOS to test the effects of resveratrol on hormone imbalance. Resveratrol, which is part of a group of plant compounds called polyphenols, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. This compound can also be found naturally in nuts.

The researchers found that in women who were given resveratrol supplement, the total testosterone levels dropped by 23.1 percent while those in the placebo group increased their testosterone levels by 2.9 percent.

The level of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate or DHEAS, a hormone that can also convert into testosterone, fell by 22.2 percent in the resveratrol group and increased by 10.5 percent in the placebo group.

"This nutritional supplement can help moderate the hormone imbalance that is one of the central features of PCOS," said study author Dr. Antoni Duleba, from the University of California, San Diego.

Besides moderating the androgen hormones, women who were given the resveratrol compound also exhibited improvement in diabetes risk factors and became more responsive to the hormone insulin during the study period.

"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 researchers wrote in their study.

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