WEDNESDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Cinnamon has long been
used to add flavor to sweet and savory foods. Now, preliminary
research suggests the spice may also help jump-start irregular
menstrual cycles in women affected by a common infertility
A small study by researchers from Columbia University Medical
Center in New York City found that women with polycystic ovary
syndrome who took inexpensive daily cinnamon supplements
experienced nearly twice the menstrual cycles over a six-month
period as women with the syndrome given an inactive placebo. Two of
the women in the treated group reported spontaneous pregnancies
during the trial.
"There is a lot of interest in homeopathic or natural remedies for this condition," said study author Dr. Daniel Kort, a postdoctoral fellow in reproductive endocrinology at the medical center. "This may be something we can do using a totally natural substance that can help a large group of patients."
The study was scheduled for presentation Wednesday at a meeting
of the International Federation of Fertility Societies and American
Society for Reproductive Medicine in Boston.
An estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of women of childbearing
age have polycystic ovary syndrome, with up to 5 million Americans
affected. Polycystic ovary syndrome, which involves many of the
body's systems, is thought to be caused by insensitivity to the
hormone insulin. Typical symptoms include menstrual irregularity,
infertility, acne, excess hair growth on the face or body, and
thinning scalp hair.
Treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome currently includes
weight loss, ovulation-inducing drugs such as clomiphene (brand
name Clomid) and diabetes medications such as metformin, said Dr.
Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North
Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
Kort said that it's not yet clear exactly why cinnamon may work
to regulate menstrual cycles in those with polycystic ovary
syndrome, but it may improve the body's ability to process glucose
and insulin. Prior research among diabetic patients suggested the
spice can reduce insulin resistance.
Of the 16 patients who completed Kort's trial, 11 were given
daily 1,500-milligram cinnamon supplements and five were given
placebo pills. Diet and activity levels were monitored, and
patients completed monthly menstrual calendars.
After six months, women receiving cinnamon had significant
improvement in menstrual cycle regularity, having an average of
nearly four menstrual periods over that time compared to an average
of 2.2 periods among the placebo group. Two women reported
spontaneous pregnancies after three months of cinnamon treatment,
meaning they became pregnant without additional help.
Polycystic ovary syndrome "is one of the most common causes why
women don't have regular menstrual cycles," Kort said. "But the
clinical consequences later in life are truly great -- from an
increased risk of diabetes and glucose intolerance to endometrial
cancer. Many women can go their whole lives without regular
menstrual cycles, and it doesn't necessarily bother them until they
want to have children."
The 1,500-milligram cinnamon dose was chosen for this trial
because it was between the 1,000 to 2,000 mg daily that seemed to
have metabolic effects on diabetic patients in earlier research,
Kort said. But all doses in that range are cheaply obtained,
costing pennies per capsule.
"Compared to most medical therapies these days, the cost is very small," he said.
Although the study suggests a link between cinnamon and
improvement of polycystic ovary syndrome, it doesn't establish a
direct cause-and-effect relationship.
Still, Hershlag called the study "welcome and interesting" and
said he sees no reason women with polycystic ovary syndrome
shouldn't use more cinnamon in their food or take cinnamon
"Any work that's something nutritional in nature and seems to affect the abnormal physiology of polycystic ovaries is welcome," Hershlag said. "If they want to spice up their life and take it, that's fine . . . but I think the best thing to do when you have polycystic ovaries is to be under the control of a physician."
Some women with polycystic ovary syndrome from Kort's clinic are
already trying cinnamon supplementation at home in the hopes of
regulating their own menstrual cycles, he said, although he
acknowledged the spice wasn't likely to be a cure-all for the
"It's unlikely to be the sole source of improvement or to change entire (treatment) protocols," he said. "It's not going to regulate every patient who takes it, but a good percentage who take it may experience some benefit, and the side effects are low. It's relatively cheap and well tolerated."
Some day, Kort added, he hopes to organize a larger trial
examining the issue.
Data and conclusions presented at scientific conferences are
typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
The PCOS Foundation offers more information about
polycystic ovary syndrome.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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