7 Benefits of Zinc for PCOS
A healthy diet should be the first line treatment for PCOS. You know the drill – eat a “balanced” plate with protein, fat, fiber, and some healthy carbs at meals, and limited highly processed foods. Protein, fat, carbs are called macronutrients. But the little guys, micronutrients, tend to slip through the cracks. How many of you actually pay attention to if you are getting adequate zinc? After reading this post, I think you’ll change your mind. Many women have inadequate intake of zinc and/or have increased needs. There have been studies done in women with PCOS that show benefits. Read to learn more about the benefits of zinc for PCOS.
What is zinc?
Zinc is an essential micronutrient. This means the body can’t make it and it needs to be obtained from the diet (or supplements). It’s also found in many cold lozenges and cold remedies.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes and it plays a role in immune function protein synthesis wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division. Zinc
also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for proper sense of taste and smell. A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system. Reference In addition to these functions, research is suggesting there may be added benefits of zinc for PCOS.
Many of the studies below show that zinc deficiencies are linked to various health conditions, then supplementing with zinc improves the condition. However it’s possible that women with PCOS have elevated zinc needs. The reasoning is that supplementing with fairly high doses led to an improvement in symptoms.
7 benefits of zinc for PCOS
- Alopecia. 40-70% of women experience PCOS hair loss. It’s one of the most upsetting and difficult to treat conditions. It’s due to elevated androgens. This study shows that zinc supplements randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 48 women with PCOS showed 50 mg/day elemental zinc for 8 weeks had beneficial effects on alopecia,
- Hirsutism. 60-80% of women experience hair gr. As with alopecia, this is also due to high levels of androgens. The main way to treat it naturally is by lowering androgens through diet and lifestyle. The same study as above, shows that zinc supplements randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 48 women with PCOS showed 50 mg/day elemental zinc for 8 weeks had beneficial effects on hirsuitism.
- Mental Health. Women with PCOS have increased rates of mood disorders, anxiety and depression. There have been many studies done on the benefit of zinc for mental health. Zinc is one of the most abundant trace minerals in the brain. The exact role of zinc in the pathophysiology of depression remains unclear, but studies show an inverse relationship between zinc and depression. In addition, adding zinc to pharmacological interventions for depression, shows a reduction in depressive symptoms. Reference
- Thyroid. Many women with PCOS also have thyroid issues. Zinc is crucial for proper thyroid hormone metabolism; zinc deficiency may result in decreased thyroid hormone levels and resting metabolic rate (RMR). Zinc supplementation appeared to have a favorable effect on thyroid hormone levels, particularly total T3, and RMR. Reference
- Anti-inflammatory. Women with PCOS tend to have a low-grade inflammation, and inflammation is believed to be a driver of PCOS. Diet and lifestyle are the most important factors when it comes to decreasing inflammation. Zinc in human plays an important role in cell mediated immunity and is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Zinc supplementation studies in the elderly have shown decreased incidence of infections, decreased oxidative stress, and decreased generation of inflammatory cytokines. This study done on women with PCOS using 50 mg of zinc showed reduced high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) (an indicator of inflammation) but not of inflammatory inflammatory cytokines, and other biomarkers of oxidative stress.
- Fertility. PCOS is the number one cause of anovulatory infertility. Studies are showing that a zinc deficiency can negatively affect the early stages of egg development, reducing the ability of the egg cells to divide and be fertilized. This may affect fertility months in the future. Reference
- Lowered blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. 50% of women with PCOS get diabetes or prediabetes by the age of 40. The good news is that diet and lifestyle can prevent the majority of women from getting diabetes. It’s common to focus on macronutrients like carbs when trying to prevent diabetes. But macronutrients like magnesium and zinc are important as well. This systematic review and meta-analysis of 24 studies (22 on people with type 2 diabetes, 2 on people with type 1) showed that those who took zinc supplements had lower fasting glucose as well as lower HbA1c.
- Immune system: this one is a bonus! While not specifically for women with PCOS, zinc plays a critical role in the immune system. Why else would you buy zinc lozenges when you are sick!
How much zinc do you need?
It depends. The RDA for women for zinc is 8 mg. However, it’s believed that many women with PCOS don’t consume adequate amounts and/or have elevated needs. But keep in mind that more is not better. The Upper Tolerable Level of zinc is 40 gm. High zinc intakes can inhibit copper absorption, sometimes producing copper deficiency. Therefore, dietary supplement formulations containing high levels of zinc (50 mg) that were used in some of the above studies sometimes contain copper. Reference
See food sources of zinc in chart
taken from NIH fact sheet
Blood test for zinc deficiency
You can get a blood test to check for zinc deficiency from plasma or serum. However, keep in mind that it’s not 100% accurate. Zinc nutritional status is difficult to measure adequately using laboratory tests due to its distribution throughout the body as a component of various proteins and nucleic acids. Plasma or serum zinc levels are the most commonly used indices for evaluating zinc deficiency, but these levels do not necessarily reflect cellular zinc status due to tight homeostatic control mechanisms. In addition, the lab results vary depending on what time of the day they were tested. Reference
Nutrition plays a major role in managing PCOS naturally. Don’t forget about about the little guys … micronutrients! More and more studies are showing the health benefits of zinc for PCOS. Do your best to meet your zinc needs from food. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of alopecia and/or hirsutism, it’s worth taking a zinc supplement of 30-40 mg a day. But remember that more is not better, as too much zinc can cause a copper deficiency.
Have any of you tried a zinc supplement?
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.