PCOS Review Newsletter #41

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

Issue #041      March 16, 2007 Bill Slater, Research Associate


1) Is Vitamin D a "Missing Link" in PCOS?

2) Vitamin D and Fertility

3) Breast Cancer and Male Hormones

4) Biotin for Healthy Hair

1) Is Vitamin D a "Missing Link" in PCOS?

There is a "forgotten vitamin" that can play a very important role in dealing with PCOS and improving your overall health.

It's vitamin D, the "sunshine" vitamin. Unfortunately, women with PCOS tend to have lower than adequate vitamin D levels. This is not good.

Optimal vitamin D levels are important for:

  • Improved fertility (a big problem in PCOS).
  • Controlling weight (a big problem in PCOS).
  • Liver health (fatty liver disease and damage is common in PCOS).
  • Reducing insulin resistance and avoiding pancreas exhaustion (common in PCOS plus increased risk of diabetes).
  • Prevention of bone loss and osteoporosis.
  • Positive mood and cognitive performance.
  • Breast health.
  • Gastrointestinal tract health.
  • Nervous system health.
  • And more!

You're more likely to have a vitamin D insufficiency if you live in northern latitudes or cloudy climates, stay mostly indoors, or are fully clothed or use sunscreen when outdoors. Or if you are a strict vegetarian.

For many, vitamin D supplementation will be helpful.

Last month, we mentioned that a new nutritional supplement for PCOS will be coming to market very soon. This product will contain a substantial amount of vitamin D. So you will want to consider this supplement partly for its vitamin D content.

In our next newsletter, we'll talk about another very important ingredient in the formula. We think this product will be helpful to you, so stay tuned…

2) Vitamin D and Fertility

Medical studies have established a role for calcium in egg maturation and normal follicular development. As you may know, PCOS is characterized by abnormal follicular development and there is some indication that insulin resistance in PCOS may impair egg quality.

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and regulation and thus may help to normalize the development of your follicles and increase odds of becoming fertile.

A study conducted at Columbia University investigated whether vitamin D and calcium dysregulation contribute to the development of follicular arrest in women with PCOS, resulting in reproductive and menstrual dysfunction.

They studied 13 women who had PCOS symptoms that included chronic lack of ovulation, excessive male hormones and vitamin D insufficiency. Nine had abnormal pelvic sonograms with multiple ovarian follicular cysts.

All were hirsute, two had hair loss, and five had acanthosis nigricans.

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. These data suggest that abnormalities in calcium balance may be responsible, in part, for the arrested follicular development in women with PCOS and may contribute to the pathogenesis of PCOS.

Supplemental vitamin D may be one of the many things you can do to increase your ability to become pregnant.

We'll talk about other benefits of vitamin D in future newsletters.

Thys-Jacobs S, et al, Vitamin D and calcium dysregulation in the polycystic ovarian syndrome, Steroids. 1999 Jun;64(6):430-5.

3) Breast Cancer and Male Hormones

High levels of male hormones, or androgens, in young women apparently raise their risk of developing breast cancer, according to a recent report.

Androgens are normally present in women, although at much lower levels than in men. However, in PCOS women, androgens are frequently elevated.

Elevated androgen levels have been linked with breast cancer in studies of postmenopausal women, but it was unclear if this also applied to pre-menopausal women.

Scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France compared androgen levels in 370 premenopausal women who were later diagnosed with breast cancer with levels found in 726 similar women without breast cancer.

The likelihood of developing of breast increased significantly as levels of male hormones rose.

The risk of women younger than 40 years developing breast cancer over a 10-year period ranged from 2.6% for those with the highest testosterone levels to 1.5% among those with the lowest levels.

There was also a correlation between lower levels progesterone and increased risk of breast cancer. Note that women with polycystic ovary syndrome typically have lower than optimal progesterone levels.

The study "provides strong evidence that the risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women is directly related to circulating levels of testosterone and androstenedione," according to the authors of the study.

In other words, women with PCOS have a hormonal profile (elevated androgens, low progesterone) that matches the high risk group for breast cancer in this study.

It's not the purpose of this article to frighten you. The purpose is to caution you that you need to pay attention to this disorder and use every means at your disposal to get it under control.

We strongly recommend that you make healthy, intelligent lifestyle choices in addition to whatever medications you may be taking. It's well known that diet, exercise and stress management play a very helpful role in this disorder. We discuss this in great detail in our book.

Kaaks R et al, Serum sex steroids in premenopausal women and breast cancer risk within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005 May 18;97(10):755-65

4) Biotin for Healthy Hair

Have you ever noticed that some specialty shampoos contain biotin, a B-vitamin?

The reason they include biotin is that it aids in the production of healthy hair. If you have an issue with hair loss or poor hair quality, you will want to learn more about biotin and consider taking it as a supplement. Some health professionals have reported that high doses of biotin helped their patients to restore healthier hair.

Biotin also is helpful for maintaining blood sugar control, which is a problem for many women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

Visit our Biotin web page to find out more about this important nutrient.

Thought for Today: "What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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