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PCOS Supplements: A Review of 6 Popular Supplements

Whether you have just been diagnosed with PCOS or you have been living with PCOS for a few years, you may have noticed the overwhelming amount of information on the internet when it comes to PCOS supplements.


Woman holding PCOS supplement

Unfortunately, the supplement industry is not as regulated as we would hope. To add to that, wellness influencers promoting PCOS supplements may not have the scientific training to determine what are the best supplements for PCOS are and which ones have not been shown by the research to improve PCOS symptoms. 


As a PCOS Dietitian, I have reviewed the research for PCOS supplements extensively to figure out which ones are the most effective, and which ones are lacking in evidence. 



Inositol for PCOS

Inositols are B vitamin derivatives that are naturally found in many foods including cereals, legumes, nuts and fruits. 


Inositol is also produced naturally in the body. However, women with PCOS have lower levels of 2 types of inositol, Myo- and D Chiro- inositol in their ovaries. 


Research has shown that supplementing with inositol can:

  • Reduce insulin resistance and balance blood sugars

  • Reduce levels of androgens (male hormone)

  • Regulate periods

  • Improve egg quality

  • Increase the chances of getting pregnant with PCOS 


You might find 2 types of inositol on the market: Myo-inositol and D Chiro- inositol. Which is better? Studies show that both Myo-inositol alone and combination of Myo and D-Chiro inositol (in a 40:1 ratio) are both effective. The combination of Myo and D-Chiro inositol may be slightly more effective than Myo-inositol alone. 


Magnesium for PCOS


Magnesium is a nutrient that a lot of people may not be getting enough of, especially women with PCOS. Why is this important? Magnesium plays an important role in how insulin works in the body to lower blood sugar levels. 


Research has shown that supplementing with magnesium may help lower insulin levels in women with PCOS. Lowering insulin levels can help reduce other PCOS symptoms including irregular periods, weight gain, and infertility. You can read more about PCOS and insulin resistance here


One research study showed that magnesium was more effective in reducing insulin resistance, inflammation and cholesterol levels when combined with other supplements like melatonin, zinc and vitamin D.


Vitamin D for PCOS


Vitamin D deficiency is quite common in women with PCOS. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for PCOS because it helps make your cells become more sensitive to insulin, which helps balance out blood sugars and hormones. 


One systematic review and meta-analysis (the highest level of evidence) showed that supplementing with vitamin D:

  • Increased the chances of getting pregnant with PCOS

  • Improved ovulation

  • Decreased testosterone levels

  • Reduced insulin resistance 


Omega-3 for PCOS 


Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines as well as some plant foods flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts. 


Women with PCOS are more likely to have inflammation, which can in turn affect how their bodies use insulin and regulate blood sugars. 


Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties, and supplementation in women with PCOS has shown to improve:

  • Insulin resistance

  • Pregnancy rates

  • Cholesterol levels 


Berberine for PCOS


Berberine has been a hot topic on social media recently and has been called “nature’s Ozempic”.  But does it live up to this claim? 


Berberine is an alkaloid plant extract present in goldenseal, barberry and tree turmeric. It has been historically used in Chinese medicine. In PCOS, studies have shown that berberine can:

  • Improve cholesterol levels

  • Reduce insulin resistance

  • Decrease total testosterone 


However, it is important to note that we need more high quality research looking at the effects of berberine on PCOS. At this point, there is no proof that Berberine is “nature’s Ozempic”. 



NAC for PCOS 


NAC or N-acetyl-cysteine is another popular supplement that is promoted for PCOS. Recall that I mentioned that women with PCOS have higher levels of inflammation in the body. NAC is an antioxidant and may have anti-inflammatory effects. 


Studies have shown that supplementing with NAC may:

  • Reduce total testosterone levels

  • Increased ovulation rate and pregnancy rates

  • Improve egg and embryo quality

  • Limited high quality studies available


Which PCOS supplements are right for you?

 

If you are looking to include supplements for PCOS into your treatment plan, make sure to speak to a PCOS dietitian first. The best strategy is to customize your diet and supplement plan to your unique needs. 


Photo of Nilou, PCOS Dietitian





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