PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is characterized by a hormonal imbalance and abnormally high androgen levels, which result in irregular or absent period, depression, weight gain, excessive facial and body hair, cysts on the ovaries and infertility. The main treatment for PCOS is based on a healthy lifestyle involving proper nutrition and regular physical activity. A diet limiting your carbohydrate consumption can generally manage PCOS and its underlying insulin resistance. Vitamin D also appears to be a promising element for improving PCOS symptoms.
Insulin Resistance and PCOS
Insulin resistance appears to be a common problem for most women diagnosed with PCOS. Insulin resistance is often associated with hyperinsulinemia, or high insulin levels. With insulin resistance, because your cells are not responding normally to normal levels of insulin, your pancreas starts producing more and more insulin to try to obtain the desired effect. The high insulin levels observed with a lack of sensitivity to insulin may be partly responsible for the hormonal imbalance in PCOS and the unpleasant symptoms caused by this condition.
Vitamin D Deficiency and PCOS
A study looked at the vitamin D blood levels in a group of 206 women diagnosed with PCOS, as published in the 2009 issue of "European Journal of Endocrinology." According to this study, nearly three-quarters of women with PCOS have a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D levels were found to be the lowest in the women with more severe complications associated with PCOS, such as insulin resistance.
Vitamin D Supplementation
A study showing low vitamin D levels in women with PCOS simply indicates that there is an association but it does not allow researchers to conclude whether vitamin D deficiency led to PCOS or the other way around. Intervention studies are needed to establish the role of vitamin D status in PCOS. A study has shown that vitamin D supplementation to increase vitamin D levels in women with PCOS was associated with decreased insulin resistance, as published in the April 2010 issue of "Journal of Endocrinological Investigation." However, this study was small and of short duration; more data is needed before concluding whether higher vitamin D levels could benefit women with PCOS.
Correcting Your Vitamin D Deficiency
A simple blood test can help you identify if you are vitamin D deficient. If it is the case, taking vitamin D supplementation, as recommended by your doctor, to bring your 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels within the optimal range is a wise thing to do considering the many health benefits provided by this essential vitamin D. Although the role of vitamin D in PCOS is still unclear, your overall health will benefit from optimal vitamin D levels. While supplementing with vitamin D, monitor your PCOS symptoms to see whether they are influenced by your vitamin D levels.
- PCOSupport: What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)?
- European Journal of Endocrinology: Association of Hypovitaminosis D With Metabolic Disturbances in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Journal of Endocrinological Investigations: The Effect of Vitamin D Replacement Therapy on Insulin Resistance and Androgen Levels in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Estimation of Optimal Serum Concentrations of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D for Multiple Health Outcomes