Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are many lifestyle changes that can be made. One of these involves taking supplements for PCOS.
With so many choices when you Google “the best supplements for PCOS” it can be overwhelming. Let’s break down the top supplements for PCOS for you here.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly referred to as PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 10 people with ovaries in the UK. In people with PCOS, there is often an imbalance of hormones such as insulin and testosterone. This imbalance can result in several symptoms related to PCOS including loss of hair, irregular periods, hidradenitis suppurativa skin tags and hirsutism.
>> Read more | PCOS 101: a beginners guide to PCOS
Should I take supplements for PCOS?
As PCOS cannot be cured, many people turn to lifestyle changes like nutrition, movement and supplements to help with the management of their symptoms. There is more and more emerging evidence suggesting that supplements may help the symptoms of PCOS.
Supplements can be used to correct nutrient deficiencies. Your healthcare professional can advise if supplements are suitable for you. Remember to take supplements for at least three to six months to be able to see if the desired effect is being achieved.
The best supplements for PCOS
There are a variety of supplements including vitamins and minerals that may be beneficial in PCOS management. A nutritionist or dietitian can help you understand which supplements are recommended for your particular PCOS symptoms. Check our directory of PCOS professionals here to find a suitable provider.
Inositol (d-chiro-inositol and myo-inositol)
lnositol acts as a vitamin-like substance and is considered an insulin sensitiser. Myo-inositol is involved in the function of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), and ovulation and can help to improve egg quality. D-chiro-inositol is involved in regulating testosterone production and lowering the risk of metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure and increased blood lipids.
A meta-analysis (review of multiple randomised controlled trials) found that supplementing with myo-inositol alone or in combination with d-chiro-inositol (DCI) may have beneficial effects. The evidence has found decreased insulin levels, a slight reduction in testosterone, and an increase in serum SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin). The review concluded that supplementation with inositol can help to improve the metabolic profile of individuals with PCOS, whilst reducing their hyperandrogenism.
Overall emerging research suggests it may be beneficial for PCOS management, however further research is required.
>> Read more | What is inositol and do I need it to help manage my PCOS?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone, that the body creates from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which is essential in keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Multiple studies have investigated the effects of vitamin D supplementation on individuals with PCOS. This is because of the potential benefits including improved insulin resistance, fertility outcomes and mood in patients with PCOS.
A meta-analysis found that vitamin D significantly improved HOMA-IR, a model that measures insulin resistance.
Observational studies have indicated that vitamin D could potentially enhance endometrial thickness in individuals undergoing IVF and lead to improved outcomes
Studies conducted in this field have revealed that individuals with PCOS face an elevated risk of mood and anxiety disorders, including depression. According to a systematic review and meta-analysis, vitamin D supplementation exhibited beneficial impacts on individuals with major depressive disorder, leading to a reduction in negative emotions.
Further studies with more participants are required to conclusively confirm these results. However, it is important to note that regardless of PCOS status, it is recommended that everyone supplements vitamin D during the winter months.
>> Read more | Vitamin D and PCOS: benefits, sources and supplements
N-acetyl-cysteine, also known as NAC, plays an important role in the production of glutathione: an antioxidant in the body. There are several potential benefits of NAC. This includes insulin resistance, ovulatory function, and hormonal health.
A small study of 37 people with PCOS found that those taking 1.8g of NAC daily for 5-6 weeks found improvements in insulin circulating levels and insulin sensitivity.
Although this evidence is promising, further well-designed trials are required to examine clinical outcomes.
>> Read more | NAC for PCOS: benefits, dosage and evidence
Omega-3, a crucial fatty acid, plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system, brain, nerves, eyes, and skin. While oily fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, plant-based sources also offer good options. If obtaining sufficient omega-3 through your diet poses a challenge, considering an algae omega-3 supplement could be beneficial, for example, if you’re vegan.
In terms of PCOS, omega-3 is considered anti-inflammatory and PCOS is thought of as a condition associated with chronic inflammation. A meta-analysis study of nine trials found that omega-3 fatty acids may be recommended for the treatment of PCOS with insulin resistance and high triglyceride levels.
>> Read more | Omega 3 for PCOS: benefits, sources and supplement dosage
Vitamin B12, as a water-soluble vitamin, plays a vital role in the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids, as well as in blood formation and neurological function.
People with PCOS who are taking Metformin (the insulin sensitiser medication) may suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 should be supplemented with if you are taking Metformin, or if you’re on a plant-based diet.
>> Read more | Vitamin B12 for PCOS: 7 signs of deficiency
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), commonly known as ubiquinone, is a fat-soluble antioxidant. With a structure akin to naturally occurring vitamin K, it is found at its highest levels in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and heart. This antioxidant actively supports cellular energy production, specifically the generation of ATP.
There isn’t much information about CoQ10 for PCOS right now, so scientists need to do more research to understand how it can help people with PCOS and their symptoms.
>> Read more | CoQ10 and PCOS: does coenzyme Q10 have benefits for PCOS?
Zinc is a trace mineral that is required for almost 100 enzymes in the body to carry out chemical reactions. It plays a role in cell and enzyme production, facilitates wound healing, and aids in the processing of macronutrients present in food.
Notably, there is evidence indicating that individuals with PCOS might have lower circulating zinc levels when compared to those without the condition. Research suggests that zinc may be helpful in managing PCOS because it is linked to insulin resistance and cholesterol levels.
>> Read more | Zinc for PCOS: food sources and supplements
Magnesium, a mineral present in a wide variety of foods, serves over 300 functions in the body and influences estrogen levels, thyroid function, blood sugar levels, and various other processes.
It is important to mention that we need more evidence including studies of a longer length and studies with more participants.
>> Read more | PCOS and magnesium: benefits, dosage and side effects
What about fertility supplements for PCOS?
If you are trying to conceive, some supplements like vitamin D will still be beneficial. You should also be supplementing with folic acid. You can read our full article on the best fertility supplements for PCOS for an in-depth look.
Key takeaways: supplements for PCOS
Whilst further research is required for many of the above supplementation recommendations for PCOS, the limited research does show promise in this area. If you are interested in trying supplementation, always consult with a health professional first.
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.