Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the most common endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age, is characterized by hyperandrogenism, oligo/amenorrhea, and polycystic ovaries. We aimed to determine whether low-frequency electro-acupuncture (EA) would decrease hyperandrogenism and improve oligo/amenorrhea more effectively than physical exercise or no intervention. We randomized 84 women with PCOS, aged 18-37 yr, to 16 wk of low-frequency EA, physical exercise, or no intervention. The primary outcome measure changes in the concentration of total testosterone (T) at week 16 determined by gas and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry was analyzed by intention to treat. Secondary outcome measures were changes in menstrual frequency; concentrations of androgens, estrogens, androgen precursors, and glucuronidated androgen metabolites; and acne and hirsutism. Outcomes were assessed at baseline, after 16 wk of intervention, and after a 16-wk follow-up. After 16 wk of intervention, circulating T decreased by -25%, androsterone glucuronide by -30%, and androstane-3α,17β-diol-3-glucuronide by -28% in the EA group (P = 0.038, 0.030, and 0.047, respectively vs. exercise); menstrual frequency increased to 0.69/month from 0.28 at baseline in the EA group (P = 0.018 vs. exercise). After the 16-wk follow-up, the acne score decreased by -32% in the EA group (P = 0.006 vs. exercise). Both EA and exercise improved menstrual frequency and decreased the levels of several sex steroids at week 16 and at the 16-wk follow-up compared with no intervention. Low-frequency EA and physical exercise improved hyperandrogenism and menstrual frequency more effectively than no intervention in women with PCOS. Low-frequency EA was superior to physical exercise and may be useful for treating hyperandrogenism and oligo/amenorrhea.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00484705.