Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects one in 10 women under 45 and is more common in obese women, can take a toll on the heart, increasing risks of diabetes and dangerous inflammation.
The many obese women who develop painful ovarian cysts can improve their health by soaking in a hot tub, surprising new research has found. While losing weight would be the biggest game-changer, researchers found a dip in a jacuzzi is an effective short-term measure to prevent related heart woes.
However, a small study by the University of Oregon suggests hot water baths can act as an antidote to that inflammation. Researchers found a dip in a jacuzzi is an effective short-term measure to prevent heart woes from ovarian cysts common in the obese
Lead author of the study Brett Romano Ely, who is presenting the research for the first time today at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, explains that his work builds on the burgeoning field of research into heat therapy, and its myriad of benefits, even for severe health issues.
It is the first study to examine impacts in women with PCOS and the first to look at changes in fat tissue before and after heat therapy.
‘Our findings are exciting because repeated heat exposure appears to reverse some of the inflammation in fat that may be causing metabolic health impairment in this population,’ said Ely, a doctoral candidate in the department of human physiology at the University of Oregon.
‘Along with this reduction in inflammation, we observed improvements in functional outcomes related to insulin resistance.
‘This means that regular hot tub use could potentially be used as a therapy in populations with an elevated risk of developing metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.’
To investigate, Ely monitored six obese women with PCOS for two months. During that time, they each went for one-hour sessions in a hot tub up to four times a week. Researchers analyzed samples of fat tissue taken at the beginning and end of the study and also tested insulin sensitivity in four of the women.
At the end of two months, the women showed reductions in fasting glucose during an oral glucose tolerance test (indicating a reduced risk of developing diabetes), reduced blood pressure and heart rate (indicating a reduced risk of heart disease) and other improvements in measures of heart health and metabolism.
Surprisingly, some participants reported having regular menstrual cycles during the study, suggesting that heat could help mitigate some of the underlying physiological processes involved in PCOS.
Researchers speculate that sitting in a hot tub can yield some of the same benefits as aerobic exercise because both activities raise body temperature.
This triggers an increase in the flow of blood to the skin as a cooling mechanism.
‘We see blood flow patterns in subjects in the hot tub that look like what we see in subjects during aerobic exercise, so this change in blood flow may have a similar benefit to exercise on blood vessel health,’ Ely said.
In addition, heat exposure causes the body to increase proteins known as heat shock proteins, which are involved in reducing inflammation, repairing damaged insulin receptors and improving blood vessel structure and function.
The researchers found levels of some heat shock proteins were increased in fat tissue after the heat therapy, indicating that these proteins could play a role in the reduced inflammation and improved insulin sensitivity they observed in the women.
While the researchers saw some improvements after the first month of regular hot tub use, most improvements took the full two months to become apparent.