PCOS Review Newsletter #21

Natural Health Ideas for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
A free monthly newsletter for women with ovarian cysts or PCOS.

Issue #021      March 22, 2005 Bill Slater, Research Associate


1) Obesity Drug Helpful for Polycystic Ovaries

2) Magnesium May Help PCOS

1) Obesity Drug Helpful for Polycystic Ovaries

You may have heard a recent news report about Xenical for the treatment of PCOS.

The prescription weight-loss drug orlistat (brand name Xenical), appears to be as effective as the drug metformin (brand name Glucophage), in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), according to researchers at the University of Hull in England.

In this study, 21 women received either metformin or orlistat three times a day. After 3 months, both drugs produced a significant reduction in testosterone levels. (As you know, many women with PCOS have testosterone levels that are too high).

Moreover, those in the orlistat group showed a greater weight reduction than those in the metformin group. Results of this study would suggest that you would benefit by taking orlistat, especially if you are overweight.

However, the side effects of both orlistat and metformin are substantial. We have a complete review of metformin side effects at:

Orlistat blocks fat absorption in your GI tract. Because you absorb less fat, you tend to lose weight. However, one of the biggest concerns about orlistat is that it binds to fat-soluble vitamins and prevents their absorption, including vitamin D, vitamin E, beta-carotene and other fat-soluble nutrients.

We've spoken several times about the importance of vitamin D adequacy in dealing with PCOS:

Many women already have vitamin D levels that are too low. Orlistat can only worsen the problem.

Orlistat can also cause flatulence, urgency to defecate, and leakage of oily stools, especially if you eat too much fat. If you take some soluble fiber such as psyllium seed along with orlistat, you may be able to reduce these symptoms somewhat.

In summary, be careful before jumping onto the orlistat bandwagon. If you do take orlistat, consult with your doctor about supplemental fat-soluble vitamins. Don't take vitamins at the same time as your orlistat.

Source: Jayagopal, V et al, Orlistat is as beneficial as metformin in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Feb;90(2):729-33.

2) Magnesium May Help PCOS

Women with PCOS are known to have a high incidence of insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, and tend to be at eventual high risk for hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Optimal intake of magnesium has been shown to be helpful for all of these health problems. In addition, magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. So you can imagine how important it is.

Do women with polycystic ovarian syndrome have a problem with magnesium? A study conducted at the State University of New York found significantly lower serum magnesium levels in PCOS women compared to non-PCOS women. This study suggests it would be wise for you to pay more attention to this vital mineral.

However, many of us don't get enough dietary magnesium because we eat so many processed foods that are low in magnesium. This is one reason why we will be emphasizing whole, unprocessed foods in our upcoming healthy PCOS diet book.

Magnesium is found in green vegetables, nuts, seeds and some grains. Although it is present in many foods, it usually occurs in small amounts. As with most nutrients, daily needs for magnesium cannot be met from a single food. Eating a wide variety of foods, including at least 3-5 servings of vegetables daily, helps to ensure an adequate intake of magnesium. If you find yourself relying on processed foods, you may need to take supplemental magnesium.

Source: Muneyyirci-Delale, O et al, Divalent cations in women with PCOS: implications for cardiovascular disease. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2001 Jun;15(3):198-201

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