Can folic acid help PCOS?

What is PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome, more commonly referred to as PCOS, is a common endocrine disorder with metabolic and reproductive consequences. It can display as a collection of symptoms including; acne, oily skin, lack of or irregular periods, lack of ovulation, excess hair growth, insulin resistance, increased testosterone levels and trouble getting pregnant.

Understandably, when receiving a diagnosis of PCOS, individuals may be concerned they may not be able to get pregnant. Although you may find it more difficult to conceive it is still possible. We discuss this topic, and available options here.

So, what is folic acid and why is it important?

Folic acid (or folate) also known as vitamin B9, is important when it comes to the topic of conception and pregnancy, it is recommended that you take it during preconception and up until your 12 weeks pregnant. This is to reduce the risk of problems in the baby’s development in the early weeks of pregnancy.

Folate is an essential nutrient for the development of the neural tube, and is known for its role in preventing defects in this area. This structure often begins forming before women find out they’re pregnant, which is why it’s important to consume preconception. It is important for oocyte quality (an egg before maturation) and maturation mediated by the effects of folate in the reduction of reactive oxygen species and limiting homocysteine levels.

Consequently, a preconception diet rich in folate is recommended, it can be found in dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach and in many different kinds of legumes.

The link between folic acid and PCOS

In a study conducted on 54 women of childbearing age with PCOS, up to 70% of individuals were at risk of insufficient intake of folic acid. This suggests, when considering nutrition, folic acid intake may need to be increased. Whilst this study was small, if you’re thinking about trying to conceive, your folic acid intake is something to be mindful of. Additionally, as mentioned above folate appears key for oocyte quality, which has been found to be poorer in individuals with PCOS.

Furthermore, in another study, infertile individuals who consumed 2 x 2000 mg myo-inositol and +2 x 200 μg folic acid per day, were found to have improved symptoms and infertility in those with PCOS. 70% of women had restored ovulation, and overall the treatment resulted in better fertilization rates and better embryo quality.

Folic acid is a key supplement when considering conception. The recommended daily intake is 400 mcg preconception and 600 mcg during pregnancy. However, requirements may exceed this, so consulting with a health professional before starting supplementation is key.

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