fbpx

Vitamin E for PCOS: is supplementation beneficial?

Lifestyle factors, including our nutrition, play an important role in the management of PCOS and the severity of the symptoms. We hear about different vitamins and minerals for PCOS like vitamin D and omega-3, but what about the lesser-known nutrients like vitamin E? Let’s talk about Vitamin E for PCOS.

What is PCOS?

PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a complex endocrine (hormone) condition impacting 1 in 10 people with PCOS. Despite its name, it does not solely involve the ovaries.

Common symptoms individuals with PCOS experience include but are not limited to irregular periods, infertility, acne, excess facial and/or body hair and rapid weight gain. Not every person experiences the same symptoms.

What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is the collective name for a group of 8 compounds, of which alpha-tocopherol is the only form to meet human requirements. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it can be stored in the liver for future use, so you do not need it in your diet every day. 

Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes and strengthens the immune system. 

Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant, which means it protects the body from damage due to free radicals (oxidation). The body is exposed to free radicals when converting food to energy, and environmental exposures such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and UV from sunlight. 

It is thought oxidative stress (imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body) is a major factor in PCOS. We do need free radicals to help us fight off pathogens, which can lead to infections, however, when there are more free radicals that can be kept in balance by antioxidants prolonged can lead to inflammation. Other commonly known antioxidants are vitamin C and CoQ10

Does vitamin E have benefits for PCOS?

Vitamin E may have benefits for PCOS as highlighted in a 2022 meta-analysis investigating vitamin E alone and in combination with omega-3 or magnesium. It was found that supplementing with vitamin E may support lowering blood lipid (fat) levels supporting heart health, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Another key finding was the reduction of hirsutism score observed among individuals with PCOS after vitamin E supplementation compared to placebo.

This finding supports a 2019 study of 60 women with PCOS that investigated vitamin E (400mg/day) and magnesium (250mg/day) supplementation for 12 weeks and found improved hirsutism and reduced inflammatory markers. However, this study is small and studies on a larger scale are needed for PCOS. 

2020 retrospective study of 321 individuals with PCOS investigated the impact of giving vitamin E to people undergoing ovulation induction. There were three groups: one group was given 100mg daily of Vitamin E during the luteal, the second group were given 100mg of vitamin E during the follicular phase and the third group received no supplementation. The results showed that those who took vitamin E had improved oxidative damage, healthy endometrium thickness and decreased doses of HMG treatment for healthy ovulation. 

A recent systematic review has suggested vitamin E may have positive benefits for primary dysmenorrhea (PD). PD refers to the presence of painful menstrual cramps. Further clinical trials are needed to determine this conclusion but these findings are interesting.

How much vitamin E do we need?

Most people can achieve sufficient intake of Vitamin E through their diet, so a vitamin E deficiency is rare.

Here are the guidelines for the UK, EU, US and Canada for vitamin E dosage.

NHS3-4mg
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)11-13mg
National Institutes of Health (NIH)15mg
Table showing the guidelines from the NHS, EFSA and NIH for daily recommended vitamin E intake.

Side effects of excess vitamin E supplementation

There is insufficient evidence to know what the effects might be of taking high doses of vitamin E supplements each day. There is some evidence to suggest that very high doses of vitamin E over long periods can be connected to an increased risk of stroke, gastrointestinal issues, bleeding problems or interactions with medications.

Do consult your doctor if you are taking any blood thinning medication such as warfarin. 

How to get vitamin E

You’re very likely to get all the vitamin E your body needs from eating a varied, balanced diet but, if necessary, you can supplement with vitamin E.

Supplements

Alpha-tocopherol is the form of vitamin E our bodies absorb best so look for supplements containing this type. It is recommended that taking 540mg (800 IU) or less a day of vitamin E supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. 

Individuals with health conditions that impact on absorbing fats and fat-soluble vitamins such as inflammatory bowel disease and cystic fibrosis may be at risk of deficiency. Please consult with your doctor and/or specialist team before starting supplementation. 

Foods

As mentioned, vitamin E intake is usually sufficient with a varied diet. That’s because lots of foods contain vitamin E including nuts, seeds, oils, fruits and vegetables.

Nuts and seeds

Sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts and Brazil nuts are all good sources of vitamin E.

Oils

Wheat germ oil, sunflower seed oil and soybean oil are all good sources of vitamin E.

Fruits and vegetables

Mamey sapote, avocado, kiwi fruit, mango, sweet potatoes, asparagus and spinach are all good sources of vitamin E.

Key takeaways: vitamin E for PCOS

Vitamin E may have benefits for PCOS as it acts as an antioxidant in the body. You should be able to achieve the daily recommended amount of vitamin E from your diet as many nuts, seeds, oils, fruits and vegetables are good sources of the vitamin. However, if you do have a clinical condition that may be impacting how well you absorb fats, you may require supplementation. Speak with your healthcare team before beginning any supplement regime.

+ posts

Alex Okell ANutr Founder and Editor

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top