PCOS and magnesium: is there a link? Magnesium is a mineral found in lots of different foods and can be supplemented. It has plenty of uses in the body but is it linked to PCOS symptoms? Let’s deep dive into the evidence and understand the benefits, dosage and side effects of magnesium for PCOS.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition which affects how an individual’s ovaries work. Symptoms of PCOS can vary drastically between people, however, the diagnostic criteria are the same for everyone. To be diagnosed with PCOS two of the following three criteria must be met: irregular periods, excess male hormones (androgens) and polycystic ovaries.
Whilst the condition cannot be cured, lifestyle changes, including supplementation, are advised for symptom management.
>> Read more | PCOS 101: a guide for beginners
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral found in a wide variety of foods and is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. As with all minerals, magnesium helps the body to function optimally.
Magnesium has over 300 functions in the body and affects oestrogen levels, thyroid function, blood sugar levels and more.
PCOS and magnesium: what does the evidence say?
Despite magnesium being an essential mineral, there is evidence to suggest that people with a magnesium deficiency are 19 times more likely to have PCOS than those without a deficiency. No wonder people with PCOS are curious about supplementing with magnesium and understanding the benefits of magnesium for PCOS.
Benefits of magnesium for PCOS
There have been several studies undertaken to understand the benefits of magnesium for PCOS. The evidence is compelling with research suggesting magnesium may be helpful to reduce insulin resistance, lower inflammation, improve period pain, lower cholesterol levels and even improve hirsutism. Although, we need more evidence including studies of a longer length and studies with more participants.
Reduces insulin resistance
Magnesium has been found to have an impact on how glucose is metabolised within our body. Therefore it has been suggested that supplementing with magnesium could positively impact insulin resistance. The majority of people with PCOS have insulin resistance so this finding could be beneficial for PCOS symptoms. A review found that adequate magnesium status (from food or supplements or a combination) is likely to be linked to improved insulin resistance.
May lower inflammation
Low-grade inflammation has been associated with PCOS. Systemic inflammation may be associated with long-term impacts of PCOS like cardiovascular disease. A study of people with PCOS supplementing with magnesium (oxide) and vitamin E for 12 weeks found a reduction in inflammatory markers.
May help with period pain and PMS
Linked to improved cholesterol levels
People with PCOS have an increased risk of high cholesterol levels. One study investigated the impact of supplementing with magnesium and vitamin E on 60 individuals with PCOS. They found that supplementing with this combination resulted in reduced serum triglycerides and insulin levels and reduced VLDL cholesterol levels.
Types of magnesium
There are actually eleven types of magnesium. This is because magnesium doesn’t exist solo, it is always combined with another substance to create these various types.
Despite there being several forms of magnesium, there are three which are primarily used in supplements:
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium oxide
- Magnesium glycinate
Magnesium oxide is not easily absorbed and can have a strong laxative effect on the body. Magnesium citrate has a mild laxative effect whereas magnesium glycinate is generally well tolerated. Both of these types of magnesium are more easily absorbed.
Food sources of magnesium
Magnesium is found in foods like dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, legumes and leafy green vegetables. But, because of declining soil quality, our foods may contain less magnesium than previously thought. This may mean that people who are deficient or at risk of deficiency would benefit from supplementing with magnesium.
The required amount of magnesium is between 270 and 300mg per day.
Despite the promising studies discussed, further research is needed in PCOS populations to definitively recommend magnesium for individuals with PCOS and recommend a specific magnesium dosage.
Signs of magnesium deficiency
There are various signs of magnesium deficiency including:
- muscle cramping or muscle pain
- frequent headaches or migraines
- mood swings or mood conditions like anxiety and depression
- low energy levels and fatigue
- period pain
- difficulty sleeping
If you suspect that you are deficient in magnesium, speak to your doctor about having a blood test to measure blood magnesium levels.
Side effects of supplementing with magnesium
Taking higher doses (over 400mg) can cause adverse effects in the short term including GI issues like diarrhoea. There is not enough evidence to understand the impact of too much magnesium long-term. Toxicity is rare because magnesium is water soluble so excess magnesium will be excreted via urine. But always follow your doctor’s or the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to supplements.
Best magnesium for PCOS
If you choose to supplement with magnesium, we have rounded up some of our top suggestions for high-quality supplements. You can also apply magnesium directly to your skin. This form of magnesium bypasses the digestive system and reaches the blood and muscles via the skin (epidermis). As always, if you choose to take a supplement speak to your healthcare professional or doctor before taking any new supplements.
- All 5 forms of magnesium
- Soy-free, non-GMO and gluten-free
- 120 capsules
- Made in the UK
- Magnesium citrate
- Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
- Gluten, wheat, lactose and gelatine free
- 180 tablets
- 6 month supply
- Made in the UK
- Dermatolgically tested magnesium chloride body lotion (30% concentration)
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- An effective and convenient alternative to tablets and capsules
- Suitable for all ages and during pregnancy
Key takeaways: PCOS and magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral which is required in the body for over 300 functions including hormonal balance. There appears to be a link between PCOS and magnesium deficiency and magnesium may have benefits for various symptoms of PCOS. More high-quality research is required but if you do decide to supplement with magnesium, make sure you speak to a healthcare professional or doctor.
Founder and Editor | Registered Associate Nutritionist
Founder of Be The Collective LTD [The PCOS Collective & The Endo Collective] Alex Okell ANutr is a London-based reproductive health nutritionist with experience in research, private practice and digital media. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition from King’s College London and has co-authored papers with the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, The Food Foundation and the Food Standards Agency. Alex offers 1:1 PCOS support in our virtual PCOS clinic.