Vitamin D and polycystic ovaries
Posted 2 March 2015 12:00 AM by Dr Sarah Brewer
New research suggests that lack of vitamin D may contribute to the hormone imbalances associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. As many as one in five women are affected, although many cases are mild. Symptoms can include irregular ovulation, scanty or absent periods, oily skin, acne, excess unwanted hair and difficulty conceiving. Around half of women with PCSO become overweight, with fat mainly deposited around their waist, putting them at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol and other metabolic abnormalities.
PCOS occurs when your ovaries produce too many male hormones (androgens such as testosterone) which block the normal growth and development of egg follicles. As a result, the ovaries develop multiple, small cysts containing under-developed eggs. Vitamin D has a hormone-like action in the body and is now known to be involved in the development and maturation of eggs.
Studies have found that one in two women with PCOS have a significant vitamin D deficiency, especially those who develop abdominal obesity. Links were also found between the degree of vitamin D deficiency and levels of the hormones, LH and FSH which stimulate egg development. Lack of vitamin D may therefore be the missing link that explains why some women with PCOS develop worsening symptoms, while others are only mildly affected.
So how much vitamin D do you need? The EU recommended intake is just 5 mcg (200 i.u) but this is based on calcium absorption for healthy bones. Many experts believe higher levels of at least 25mcg (1000 i.u.) are needed for overall good health, especially when you are trying to conceive. The European Food Safety Authority have stated that the tolerable upper intake level for vitamin D (from all sources) is 100 mcg/day (4,000 i.u.) for adults, including pregnant and lactating women. If you have PCOS, best advice is to ask your doctor to measure your vitamin D levels to assess the dose you need. A private home test and dose recommendation is also available via www.myvitdtest.com (£24).
NB When taking supplements, select those made to a pharmaceutical standard known as GMP to ensure the stated dose is present. Supplements supplying vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are better absorbed than those supplying vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).
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