Polycystic ovary syndrome, the most common female endocrine disorder in the United States, affects between 5 to 10 percent of women in the United States, the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association reports. Typical symptoms of PCOS include numerous small cysts on the ovaries, being overweight, decreased insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance, and excess levels of male hormones, called androgens. High androgen levels cause symptoms such as male-pattern hair loss and hirsutism, or excess hairiness in atypical patterns, such as on the face, back, thighs or abdomen. Some practitioners recommend magnesium as a potential treatment for PCOS, but study results are mixed.
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Magnesium and Insulin Resistance
The theory behind magnesium treatments for PCOS is that magnesium levels are often low in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the more common type of diabetes that normally develops in middle age. Taking magnesium supplements can improve insulin sensitivity, according to Jerry Nadler, M.D. Decreased insulin sensitivity is a factor in the development of both type 2 diabetes and PCOS. Glucose in the bloodstream normally results in insulin release from the pancreas. Insulin helps cells absorb glucose. When cells become insulin resistant, they no longer respond normally to its release. It takes increasing amounts of insulin to get cells to respond to its signal to uptake glucose. Medications given to increase insulin sensitivity such as metformin, used to treat both PCOS and type 2 diabetes, increase magnesium levels in the liver.
Recommended Magnesium Intake
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium established by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences is 310mg per day for women ages 19 to 31 and 320mg for women over age 31. As many as 50 to 85 percent of Americans may be deficient in magnesium, according to Dr. Nadler. High blood glucose levels may cause increased magnesium loss in the urine, which may account of low magnesium levels in diabetics, the Office of Dietary Supplements explains.
A study conducted by researchers from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine and reported in the January 2011 issue of the Scandinavian journal “Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica” found no difference in magnesium levels between 100 women with PCOS and 20 women without the disorder.
Magnesium supplementation up to the tolerable upper intake of 350mg per day for women is considered safe. Side effects of magnesium toxicity include diarrhea, decreased mental status, nausea, loss of deep tendon reflexes, slowed breathing, muscle weakness, low blood pressure and loss of appetite. Do not take high doses of magnesium to treat PCOS without your medical practitioner’s approval.