Vitamins and Minerals Role in PCOS Health

Woman with vitamins and a glass of water in her hands

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Since polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a metabolic syndrome, one of the primary things a woman with can do to help manage their condition is to lose weight and maintain a healthy diet. Many studies have found associations between hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, obesity, and PCOS.

Vitamins and minerals are an essential part of any healthy eating plan and are often the most overlooked. In studies, there have been correlations made between vitamin deficiencies and PCOS. In fact, a 2014 study published in Archives of Women's Mental Health suggests vitamin D deficiency may also be a modifiable risk factor for depressive symptoms in women with PCOS.

How Vitamins Deficiency Affects PCOS

Vitamins have important functions within the body. For example, vitamin D deficiency has repeatedly been linked to insulin resistance, PCOS, and depression.

In women with PCOS, high insulin levels can cause the ovaries to make more androgens (a group of hormones that play a role in male traits and reproductive activity). This can cause increased body hair, acne, and irregular or few periods.

Insulin is the hormone that helps the cells and tissues of the body use glucose and having insulin resistance can increase your risk for both diabetes and PCOS.

It has been previously demonstrated that folate and vitamin B (12) treatments improve insulin resistance in patients with metabolic syndrome.

What Are Vitamins and How Do They Work?

Vitamins aid enzymes in doing their work as coenzymes. An enzyme is a special protein which causes a particular chemical reaction. Many enzymes require a coenzyme, which makes up a necessary portion of the enzyme. Without its coenzyme, thousands of chemical reactions would be left incomplete.

There are two different types of vitamins:

  • Fat soluble vitamins require special fat molecules called chylomicrons to be absorbed with them into the lymphatic system prior to entering the blood. Once they do enter the bloodstream, proteins are needed to carry them through the blood vessels. Because excess amounts are stored in the fatty tissue, it is possible to accumulate such large doses that they can become toxic. This typically happens due to taking inappropriate vitamin supplements, not because of diet imbalances. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble.

Vitamin D, often called the sunshine vitamin, is recognized as being important in controlling blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity. Low levels of vitamin D is also associated with insulin resistance and obesity in women with PCOS.

  • Water soluble vitamins do not require special proteins to aid absorption into the bloodstream and are able to move freely throughout the blood and body cells. Excess amounts are secreted in the urine, preventing a toxic build-up. Vitamins B and C are water soluble vitamins.

The B vitamins are very important in helping to correct the symptoms of PCOS as they are essential for the liver to convert your ‘old’ hormones into harmless substances which can then be excreted from the body. Vitamins B2, B3, B5, and B6 are also very useful for controlling weight in the following ways:

  • Vitamin B2: Processes fat, sugar, and protein into energy.
  • Vitamin B3: A component of the glucose tolerance factor which is released every time blood sugar rises, to help keep levels in balance.
  • Vitamin B5: Helps with weight loss by controlling fat metabolism.
  • Vitamin B6: Maintains hormone balance and together with B2 and B3, is necessary for normal thyroid hormone production. Deficiencies in these 3 vitamins can affect thyroid function and consequently affect the metabolism.

The Effect Minerals Have on PCOS

Minerals are inorganic materials, meaning they are not alive or do not originate from living things such as plants or animals. Minerals are not destroyed by the body’s digestive process or food preparation and always retain their individual identity despite the chemical reactions they undergo.

Examples of minerals include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium

Minerals serve many important functions within the body. Bones and teeth are made of primarily calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. The balance of fluids within the body is largely due to the movement of minerals such as sodium, potassium, and chloride within the different body compartments. Calcium and potassium are key players in the transmission of nerve signals and muscle contractions.

The body maintains its balance of minerals in a variety of ways, depending on the mineral. Calcium is stored in the body and in the bones and is released when it’s needed elsewhere in the body. When the body is missing some key minerals, like iron, the body will increase the amount that is absorbed during digestion. Generally, minerals that are not stored in the body tissues do not accumulate to toxic levels because excess amounts will be excreted in the waste. Grains, vegetables, dairy, and proteins are good sources of dietary minerals, while fruits, oils, and sugars are not.

Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption, which further drives the point that proper vitamin and mineral intake is vital for women with PCOS.

Magnesium calms our nervous system and prevents excessive production of cortisol (a stress hormone). When we are under stress, it means the body is also losing magnesium as it helps support the adrenal glands, which get exhausted when making cortisol. Studies are now underway to see whether women with PCOS may have excess androgens due to altered cortisol metabolism.

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Article Sources

  • Dudek, Susan G. Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice 4th Edition. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins. Philadelphia: 2001.
  • Naqvi S, et al. Predictors of depression in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Archives of Women’s Mental Health.