PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a very complex hormonal and systemic metabolic disorder. Vitamins and minerals are required if optimal metabolism is to occur.
Numerous medical studies have shown that people with chronic disorders are very likely to also have insufficiencies of one or more vitamins or minerals.
In addition, they may also have a greater need for certain vitamins or minerals than healthy people. Therefore, a high quality multi-vitamin/mineral is recommended.
Adequate levels of vitamins and minerals may improve these health issues:
Leading medical journals now recommend all adults take multivitamins. Both the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association have concluded that:
According to research at the University of California (Berkeley), "…about 50 human genetic diseases due to defective enzymes can be remedied or ameliorated by the administration of high doses of the vitamin component of the corresponding coenzyme, which at least partially restores enzymatic activity."
In other words, the processes of the body depend on vitamins and minerals. If a vitamin or mineral is missing or too low, the body process that depends on it cannot occur, or will occur at a lower than optimal rate. In addition, some body processes are genetically inefficient in some individuals. These individuals require higher-than-normal amounts of certain vitamins or minerals for their body processes to work.
The University of California study referred to genetic diseases. Although we wouldn't describe PCOS as an entirely genetic disease, it clearly does have genetic components. Depending on your specific genetic pattern, you may need extra amounts of some vitamins or minerals in order to optimize your metabolic processes.
Listed below are a few relevant nutrients found in a multi-vitamin/mineral formula.
Biotin is a member of the B-complex family of vitamins. It improves disordered glucose metabolism by stimulating insulin secretion in response to blood sugar and by improving the liver's ability to process glucose. Biotin appears to improve insulin resistance.
Biotin is crucial for proper hair and nail growth. In high doses, biotin can be effective in restoring head-hair growth, with no known side effects.
Calcium appears to improve insulin sensitivity. In one study, people taking calcium supplements had reduced insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity as compared to people who did not take the supplements.
Recent studies also show that extra calcium helps with weight loss. In animal studies, those given extra dietary calcium or calcium supplements lost more weight than animals with lower calcium intake.
It appears that a deficiency in chromium can result in insulin resistance. Evidence suggests diet-induced insulin resistance can be improved by chromium.
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates may lead to a loss of chromium. The chromium loss may be due to high insulin levels when consuming this type of diet.
Chromium has been used for decades to treat people with blood sugar or diabetic problems.
Folate and folic acid are forms of the same B vitamin. Folate is found naturally in food and folic acid usually found in vitamins. Folic acid is required for DNA synthesis and optimal neurological function. It works in tandem with vitamin B12. Folic acid may be helpful in reducing homocysteine, which is a metabolic byproduct that is too high in some PCOS women, especially if they are taking metformin (Glucophage).
Magnesium is involved in numerous metabolic actions.
Insulin stores magnesium. Conversely, magnesium is necessary for the action of insulin and the manufacture of insulin. If your cells become resistant to insulin, you can't store magnesium so you lose it through urination. Studies have shown an association between insulin resistance and magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency is relatively common in diabetics.
Magnesium is required for all energy-producing reactions that take place in the cell. Since magnesium is necessary to relax muscles, a magnesium deficiency would cause blood vessel constriction, leading to higher blood pressure.
A potassium-depleted diet was found to lead to insulin resistance. You should be able to get most of your potassium from the diet recommended in The Natural Diet Solution for PCOS and Infertility e-book. However, some potassium supplementation may be indicated.
Vanadium is a trace mineral thought to enhance the action of insulin by activating insulin receptors. Vanadium is also thought to help the liver do a better job of controlling sugars and fats. Diabetics who take vanadium in the form of vanadyl sulfate have improved insulin sensitivity and reduced blood glucose.
Vitamin B6 is involved in numerous metabolic processes, including blood sugar metabolism. Vitamin B6 affects receptors for estrogen, androgen, and progesterone. Vitamin B6 is required for the synthesis of serotonin. Mild deficiency of vitamin B6 is common.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin commonly found in a variety of foods such as fish, shellfish, meats, and dairy products. Vitamin B12 is necessary for DNA synthesis and neurological health. It works in conjunction with folic acid.
Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion. Once released, B12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream. However, this absorption process is often compromised in unhealthy individuals or the elderly. Metformin (Glucophage) and other medications may make vitamin B12 absorption more difficult.
Strict vegetarians or vegans may not get enough dietary vitamin B12.
Vitamin D is required by the pancreas for the production of insulin. There is some evidence to suggest vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity and the body's ability to handle blood sugar.
Recent studies have shown that vitamin D and calcium, when taken together, suppress spontaneous food intake and burn fat. Higher calcium intake is consistently associated with lower body weight. As vitamin D significantly increases calcium absorption, it seems likely that higher intakes of vitamin D would decrease body weight, even if the vitamin itself had no direct effect on weight.
Vitamin D levels are lower in obese people than in thin people.
In one small study, vitamin D combined with calcium supplementation resulted in normalized menstrual cycles within 2 months for seven women. Two became pregnant and the others maintained normal menstrual cycles.
Vitamin E is a well-known antioxidant. Studies on vitamin E for improving insulin sensitivity are inconsistent. Vitamin E adequacy should be maintained at least because of its important antioxidant functions.
Medical research has shown that minerals such as magnesium, selenium, chromium and zinc are important for helping you to control chronic inflammation and insulin dysfunction, which are two hallmarks of PCOS.
For example, Arak University of Medical Sciences in Iran reported results from giving 200 mg of zine sulfate (50 mg of elemental zinc) for eight weeks to women who had PCOS. Another group of women took a placebo.
Compared to the placebo group, the women taking supplemental zinc had reduced insulin, blood sugar levels and blood fats. They also had less hair loss and not as much hirsutism (unwanted hair growth).
I don't recommend taking 50 mg of zinc by itself unless advised to do so by your health professional or specifically have a zinc deficiency. It's said that an excess of one mineral could interfere with absorption of other minerals or antagonize them in other ways.
Could Zinc Help with Depression?
As you probably know, depression is a problem that commonly accompanies polycystic ovary syndrome. Perhaps you are taking antidepressants for this condition.
An interesting study from Jagiellonian University in Poland suggests that zinc supplementation may be helpful if you are not having success with antidepressant medications.
One group of depressed people took 25 mg of zinc daily for 12 weeks. The other group took a placebo. The study revealed that among those who were resistant to the antidepressant imipramine, the group taking the zinc supplements reported less depression
If you feel your antidepressant medication is not working well for you, why not ask your health care provider about taking zinc?
Also, preliminary evidence suggests a relationship between zinc deficiency and a poor response to insulin. Zinc plays an important role in many metabolic processes.
In summary, many women with PCOS have an increased need for nutritional supplementation. Zinc works synergistically with other minerals and vitamins, so a good way to get zinc is in a high quality multi-vitamin mineral.
Source: Chavarro JE et al, Use of multivitamins, intake of B vitamins, and risk of ovulatory infertility, Fertil Steril. 2008 Mar;89(3):668-76
Jamilian M et al. Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Endocrine Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2016 Apr;170(2):271-8.
Foroozanfard F et al. Effects of zinc supplementation on markers of insulin resistance and lipid profiles in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2015 Apr;123(4):215-20
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