What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is beginning to be recognised for the impact it can have on many health conditions. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that the link between PCOS and vitamin D, and the potential benefits of the vitamin on PCOS symptom management is becoming increasingly researched.
First let’s look at where we can get vitamin D. The main source comes from direct sunlight on the skin, which between late March/early April and the end of September in the UK, should provide all the vitamin D we need. But due to various factors like where you live and wearing SPF, the amount absorbed from the sun can be affected.
Few foods contain large amounts of vitamin D, but foods have been fortified to help in providing vitamin D, such as fortified cereals, egg yolks, fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines also contain vitamin D.
PCOS and vitamin D – the link
Now let’s look at how it can affect your PCOS. Low levels of vitamin D in the body have been shown to worsen symptoms such as; menstrual irregularities, infertility, hyperandrogenism and insulin resistance. One study concluded that around 70-85% of individuals with PCOS are deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D and PCOS management
The impact of vitamin D on mood in PCOS
One of the ways that vitamin D is good for PCOS is that it may help in improving your mood. Research in this area has shown that women with PCOS are at a higher risk of mood and anxiety disorders, which may be as a result of the symptoms individuals suffer with. Additionally, there is some research to suggest that supplementation with vitamin D can help to manage mood, however further research is required in this area for conclusive results.
Vitamin D and the menstrual cycle in PCOS
Another benefit of vitamin D supplementation is the impact it can have on menstrual cycle regulation, potentially also improving fertility. One 3-month study concluded that supplementing 400IU of vitamin D, 1,000mg of calcium a day and metformin can help in maintaining a regular menstrual cycle.
Vitamin D, PCOS and further health conditions
Whilst studies have found no significant difference in the vitamin D levels between PCOS and women without the condition, high prevalence of deficiency has been associated with metabolic syndrome; a collection of different health conditions increasing your risk of further health issues such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Furthermore as previously mentioned, low levels of vitamin D, may exacerbate symptoms of PCOS. Observational studies suggest a possible role of vitamin D and metabolic disturbance in PCOS, however further research is required for a definite conclusion to be made.
The conclusion on the link between Vitamin D and PCOS
To conclude, while further research is needed, supplementation of vitamin D daily may help to reduce some of the symptoms of PCOS. Being vitamin D deficient can have a negative impact on symptoms. Whilst supplementation will not cure PCOS, it can help to ease symptoms, which in turn will help in improving day to day management of PCOS.
Written by Michala Rooney. Reviewed and edited by Annabel Sparrow (Associate Registered Nutritionist).