Common nutrient deficiencies among people with PCOS

Common nutrient deficiencies among people with PCOS

Vitamins and Nutrients

Vitamins and nutrients are an essential part of any healthy diet and are often the most overlooked. Studies have found correlations between vitamin deficiencies and PCOS. For example, vitamin D deficiency has been tied to insulin resistance, PCOS, and depression on several occasions.

A balanced and nutritious diet has many benefits. A diet low in nutrients can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms such as stress, tiredness. It can also create an increased risk of long-term illnesses such as obesity, high blood pressure. These symptoms are your body's way of communicating potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Recognizing them can help you adjust your diet accordingly. This article helps you understand how PCOS is related to certain types of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.

Vitamin Deficiencies are more common with PCOS

Oftentimes, in the process of trying to eat healthily and have balanced meals, you might miss out on key nutrients and vitamins. PCOS patients are more likely to develop deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, more specifically, vitamins D, B12, and B9. The ‘why’ behind this includes the health risks and complications that are a result of PCOS which can come in the way of your body’s strength to assimilate nutrients from your meals. At times, it can be a side effect of medications used in the treatment of PCOS.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known to be important for controlling blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with insulin resistance and obesity in women with PCOS.

Like calcium, vitamin D is essential to bone and dental health, and also boosts fertility. Lower vitamin D levels are Vitamin D helps regulate calcium levels in the blood while reducing its elimination through the urine. It has an impact on the prevention of osteoporosis and can slow down its progression.

Studies show that sun exposure can provide 80-90% of the recommended amount of 2 to 3 exposures per week (don’t forget to apply sunscreen!), for 10 to 15 minutes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., would be sufficient.

Foods to eat: You will find a significant amount of vitamin D in many foods such as fish, egg yolk, and fortified soy milk.

Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)

Folate or Vitamin B9 is naturally present in leafy green vegetables and folic acid refers to the synthetic form of the vitamin produced in lab settings.

For women with PCOS, it helps in controlling chronic inflammation. It is more important for women who are pregnant or looking to get pregnant, as this vitamin is essential for the growth of the fetus in pregnant women. It promotes the proper development of the spine, brain, and skull of the baby, especially during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy.

Foods to eat: Poultry, legumes, and dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce) are all good sources of folic acid. A good intake of vitamins B9 and B12 could contribute to preventing cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for cell renewal and it contributes to the good health of the skin and helps in the formation of red blood cells. It is essential to the proper functioning of nerve cells. A deficiency in vitamin B12 causes anemia, fatigue, diarrhea, irritability, behavior, mood, and memory problems.

Foods to eat: Crustaceans and organ meats are the foods richest in vitamin B12 that we can find. Eggs, cheese, and yogurt are also sources of B12. Since most sources of vitamin B12 are animal-based if you have adopted a vegetarian or vegan diet, considering taking B12 supplements might be a good idea.

Beetroot, tomatoes, green chili and other vegetables on a table
PCOS patients are more likely to develop deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, more specifically, vitamins D, B12, and B9.

Magnesium

Essential to the body, magnesium is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions in the body. Half of the magnesium is found in the bones and teeth while the other half is distributed in the muscles, liver, and other soft tissues. Among its many functions, it contributes to heart regulation, the metabolism of lipids, and the regulation of blood sugar levels and blood pressure. An adequate intake of magnesium would reduce insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

In order to have a sufficient daily intake, women aged between 19 and 30 years should consume 310 mg of magnesium, and women aged 31 years and over, 320 mg. Pregnant women between the ages of 19 and 30 should consume 350 mg and for women 31 and older, 360 mg. This value is an average value, which can be modified by several parameters including age and physical activity.

Foods to eat: Magnesium is found in many foods - green vegetables, whole grains, nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, lentils, and legumes, (white beans, lentils, red beans), chocolate, and some mineral waters.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace element, meaning it is found only in trace amounts in the body. It is necessary to regularise the menstrual cycle, boost fertility, protein synthesis, growth and wound healing, blood formation and clotting, and immunity. It is also a powerful antioxidant and a necessary anti-inflammatory.

Zinc deficiencies are possible in the case of an unbalanced diet. They are particularly common in vegetarians and vegans. We can also suspect a deficiency in case of repeated viral infections, skin problems, brittle hair, and nails.

Foods to eat: Zinc is found in both plant and animal products, but in greater quantities and overall better assimilated in animal products. The foods richest in zinc are seafood, organ meats, and cheeses. Then come the vegetable sources of zinc: nuts, unrefined grains and legumes.

Even if food supplements are not medicines, they should be consumed with great caution. If you consume more than the body needs (the recommended daily allowance), you can put your health at risk. Reading food source charts is a great habit to find out how much you are consuming of what food.

A person with no particular health problems and a balanced diet may not need any supplements.  Supplements are only recommended if you are having trouble getting enough of these nutrients and vitamins in your meals. High levels of supplement consumption can lead to toxic levels in the body and thus they should always be consumed under a prescription and only if necessary.

Do not hesitate to ask your doctor for advice before taking any food supplements.

References

  1. Günalan, E., Yaba, A., & Yılmaz, B. (2018). The effect of nutrient supplementation in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome-associated metabolic dysfunctions: A critical review. Journal of the Turkish German Gynecological Association, 19(4), 220–232. https://doi.org/10.4274/jtgga.2018.0077
  2. Szczuko M, Skowronek M, Zapałowska-Chwyć M, Starczewski A. Quantitative assessment of nutrition in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2016;67(4):419-426. PMID: 27925712.
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