What Does Zinc Have to Do with PCOS? A Lot!

Zinc isn’t typically on the radar for most women with PCOS but it should be! Studies are showing that women with PCOS have low levels of zinc. The good news is that increasing levels of zinc can improve many of the frustrating symptoms women with PCOS experience every day like acne, hair loss, and excessive hair growth. Here’s what women with PCOS should know.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential trace metal that is required for over 300 enzyme functions in the body and it has effects on at least 2,000 genetic DNA and RNA transcriptions. A surprise to some, zinc plays a role in cholesterol and glucose metabolism as well as fertility. Zinc is involved in insulin signaling by inhibiting the enzyme protein tyrosine phosphatase to increase phosphorylation of the insulin receptor.

Adequate zinc is essential for a healthy pregnancy and crucial for normal sexual development in both men and women. Animal studies show that zinc deficiency affects ovulation, as well as effects on estrogen levels and the menstrual cycle.

Zinc for PCOS

While research is indicating women with PCOS have low levels of zinc (as well as other minerals like magnesium), it’s unclear if this is from inadequate intake or absorption, increased zinc excretion, or increased need for zinc. Compared to other women, women with PCOS have been shown to have similar dietary intake of zinc, so most likely, that is not the reason women with PCOS have low zinc levels.

Many studies are starting to look at the benefits of zinc for helping improve many of the dermatological symptoms in women with PCOS. The results just may make you smile.

PCOS and PMS

Reduces PMS Symptoms

If you suffer from those awful PMS symptoms like bloating, cramps, headaches, and increased anxiety, zinc may offer some much wanted relief.

One important role of zinc is regulating the menstrual cycle. Serum levels of zinc during the luteal phase (approximately 2 weeks before your period) are significantly lower than during the follicular phase. Zinc levels have been shown to be lower in women with PMS. Low zinc status is also linked with mood disorders.

Taking 30 to 50 mg of zinc during the 2 weeks before your period may help relieve PMS symptoms. Women with PMS who were randomized to supplement with 50 mg of zinc during the last 2 weeks of their menstrual cycle, saw significant improvements in PMS symptoms and quality of life compared to those taking a placebo, according to a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Research.

PCOS pregnancy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increases Fertility

Zinc is important for ovulation and to help follicles mature. Women with PCOS who were infertile had lower levels of zinc than PCOS women who were fertile.

 

 

hair loss pcos

Minimizes Hair Loss

Hair loss is among the most frustrating aspects of PCOS. In a study published in Biological Trace Elements Research, women with PCOS were randomly selected to receive zinc (50mg daily) or a placebo. After 8 weeks, 41.7% of women who supplemented with zinc saw a significant reduction in hair loss (alopecia) compared to only 12.5% of those taking the placebo.

Zinc works to inhibit the enzyme that converts testosterone into its non-aromatizable form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is how it can reduce hair loss as well as other symptoms associated with high testosterone levels in women with PCOS like acne and unwanted hair growth.

Reduces Hirsutism

Unwanted and excessive hair growth (hirsutism), caused by excess androgens such as testosterone, is another frustrating symptom of PCOS. Zinc is part of hair follicles and is believed to inhibit hair loss while stimulating hair growth. Women who supplemented with zinc in the study published in Biological Trace Elements Research saw significant reductions in hirsutism in just 8 weeks.

Zinc has also been shown to significantly reduce hirsutism when supplemented with magnesium, calcium and vitamin D. Sixty PCOS women were randomized to take 100 mg magnesium, 4 mg zinc, 400 mg calcium plus 200 IU vitamin D supplements, or a placebo twice daily for 12 weeks. After the intervention, those who took the supplements saw greater reductions in hirsutism than the placebo group.

acne and pcos

Clears up Skin

Another added benefit of zinc for women with PCOS is that it may be able to reduce the appearance of acne. After supplementing with zinc for 2 months, women with PCOS saw slight improvements (12.5 vs. 8.3%) in their acne compared to those who took a placebo. It would be interesting to see if longer supplementation with zinc would show further reductions in acne.

And for those of you who suffer from boils or bumps on your skin known as hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), emerging research is showing that zinc can help with this as well. Patients who took zinc gluconate, 90mg/day along with a topical medicine showed significant reductions in the appearance of boils after 3 months of treatment.

Reduces Inflammation

As an antioxidant, zinc plays a role in helping to prevent cell damage and inflammation caused by oxidative stress. Studies show that women with PCOS have high levels of oxidative stress. This could be due to high insulin levels or other factors. Some theories suggest women with PCOS have lower levels of zinc because of high oxidative stress levels which damage zinc.

Lowers Insulin

Zinc is also good for PCOS because it can lower insulin levels. Zinc is involved in the synthesis, storage, and release of insulin. Low levels of zinc have also been shown in those with type 2 diabetes. It is believed that insulin binds to zinc to help it attach to cell insulin receptors to allow glucose to enter cells. Women with PCOS who were insulin resistant had lower levels of zinc when compared to PCOS women without insulin resistance.

Signs you have Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency symptoms vary but may include:

  • Growth and development problems
  • Infertility
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin conditions (acne, boils, dermatitis)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Poor immune function
  • Frequent colds
  • Taste changes
  • Mental slowness

How Much Zinc is recommended?

Zinc levels can be measured in the blood.

The recommended daily amount of zinc for adult women is 6.8 mg daily, however, this amount may be insufficient for women with PCOS or those with a zinc deficiency.

Supplementing with zinc is well tolerated. No side effects were reported in PCOS women who supplemented with 50 mg zinc for 2 months. Taking zinc with food can minimize effects. Therapeutic amounts based on the studies above are 30 mg to 50 mg daily. Types of zinc to look for include zinc glycinate, citrate, and picolinate.

Zinc is contraindicated in people with hemochromatosis

food sources zinc pcos

Food Sources of Zinc

While oysters are by far the food with the highest amount of zinc, other good food sources include red meat, shellfish, chickpeas, and cashews.

Bottom Line

Zinc is important for PCOS. Women with PCOS tend to have lower levels of zinc. This could be caused by a variety of factors including poor diet intake, poor absorption or increased excretion or because women with PCOS require more zinc. Regardless, it may benefit women with PCOS, especially those suffering from the dermatological symptoms of acne, hair loss, and hair growth to increase their diet intake of zinc through whole foods and supplements.

Sources

  1. Siahbazi S. Effect of zinc sulfate supplementation on premenstrual syndrome and health-related quality of life: Clinical randomized controlled trial. 2017. J Obstet Gynaecol Res.
  2. Jamilian M, Foroozanfard F, Bahmani F, Talaee R, Monavari M, Asemi Z. Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Endocrine Outcomes in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2016 Apr;170(2):271-8.
  3. Hessam S. Combination of oral zinc gluconate and topical triclosan: An anti-inflammatory treatment modality for initial hidradenitis suppurativa. J Dermatol Sci. 2016 Nov;84(2):197-202.
  4. Mazloomi S, Alizadeh N, Aminzare M. Serum Zinc and Adiponectin Levels in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Adjusted for Anthropometric, Biochemical, Dietary Intake, and Physical Activity Measures. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2017.
  5. Maktabi, M., Jamilian, M. & Asemi, Z. Magnesium-Zinc-Calcium-Vitamin D Co-supplementation Improves Hormonal Profiles, Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Biol Trace Elem Res.2017:1-8.
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Comments (4)
  • What does Zinc Have to do with PCOS – SYSters' CornerSYSters' Corner

    July 19, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    […] What Does Zinc Have to Do with PCOS? A Lot! […]

  • Betty

    July 23, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    This is promising. Some things online say that too much zinc can cause hairloss. Does the 50 mg dose run the risk of being too much? Certainly don’t want to lose hair.

  • Angela Grassi

    July 26, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Betty, I haven’t seen research to show very high levels of zinc can cause hair loss. To be safe, you can stay in the range of 30 to 50 mg daily which was shown in studies to benefit hirsutism in PCOS.

  • Rachael Rine

    September 6, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    What should a pcos patient zinc level be?

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