by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
The human body is a complex system that relies on different kinds of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals to fuel its day-to-day activities. Zinc is one of those minerals, and it is responsible for hormonal balance, fortifying our immune system, wound healing, and even maintaining bone health. Zinc is definitely an important mineral, but recent studies show that women with PCOS may benefit from it more than their non-PCOS peers.
PCOS and Zinc Deficiency
Some of the many symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, lack of energy, hirsutism (unwanted hair growth), hair loss, acne, mood changes, and infertility. More symptoms are harder to detect, though, such as zinc deficiency.
A 2014 study found those with PCOS, particularly women who are insulin resistant or predisposed to type 2 diabetes, are more likely to be deficient in zinc. The study concluded the mineral deficiency may help explain why PCOS symptoms get worse the longer it is untreated.
“Mean serum zinc levels tended to be lower in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome with impaired glucose tolerance than patients with normal glucose tolerance…zinc deficiency may play a role in the pathogenesis of polycystic ovarian syndrome and may be related with its long-term metabolic complications.”
That is zinc deficiency may be brought upon by the condition, but some drugs and treatments for PCOS may also cause the deficiency, one of which are birth control pills. Birth control pills have been found to cause key nutrient depletions such as folic acid, B6, B12, vitamin C and E, magnesium, selenium, and of course zinc.
The World Health Organization recognizes this as a threat to women’s health because millions of women take birth control pills without adjusting their nutritional needs, and due to the changes PCOS creates in the body, it’s a double whammy for PCOS patients.
Symptoms of Zinc deficiency
If you have PCOS, some of the symptoms below may be due to zinc deficiency:
- Low libido
- Brain fog
- Loss of appetite
- Delayed healing of wounds
- Hair loss
These symptoms are difficult to diagnose due to their non-specific nature, and they are often associated with other health conditions; therefore, a medical examination is necessary to determine whether a zinc deficiency is present.
Lifestyle and diet are the first line of defense for managing PCOS. Supplements are also important. To help you learn which supplements are right for your unique needs, I created a comprehensive PCOS Supplement Guide that you can download by clicking on the image below.
Benefits of Zinc supplementation for those with PCOS
Zinc is available in many PCOS-friendly foods such as spinach, chicken, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds. It is sometimes difficult to consume enough dietary zinc to be effective. In this case, the next best thing is to supplement with zinc. Since zinc deficiency hits PCOS patients harder than most, supplementation is often necessary.
Here are 7 benefits of boosting your zinc intake:
1. Blood sugar control
One of the major symptoms of PCOS is being predisposed to insulin resistance as the syndrome promotes excess insulin production. A comprehensive review and meta-analysis regarding zinc supplementation and its effects on insulin resistance show positive results in terms of blood sugar control. 
More than the benefits of insulin, zinc may also help PCOS patients with their problems with having excess testosterone as excess insulin contributes to hyperandrogenemia, a condition described as having excessive levels of androgen. 
2. Improved ovulation
The mature female reproductive cell is called an ovum and is formed through the meiotic division (a type of cell division) of ovulated oocytes. Oocytes are one of the cells in the ovary. Dietary zinc deficiency is known to cause developmental issues throughout pregnancy as well as cause defects in ovulated oocytes. 
Likewise, supplementation helps improve cycle regularity.
3. Reduced hirsutism
Hirsutism is when you grow hair in places other than your head such as your face, arms, chest, back, etc. It is often caused by hyperandrogenemia. Zinc has been shown to possess anti-androgenic properties and could help reduce the effects of hirsutism on your body. 
Coincidentally, being antiandrogen also helps with alopecia (a type of hair loss).
4. Less acne
Topical acne products have included zinc in their formula for many years. Topical formulations such as zinc oxide, calamine, or zinc pyrithione have been in use as photo protecting, soothing agents, or as the active ingredient of antidandruff shampoos. You’ll be pleased to know that oral supplementation also shares some of its skin benefits. 
“Oral zinc sulfate is reportedly more effective in the treatment of severe acne than for the treatment of mild to moderate acne…Similarly, oral zinc gluconate has been found useful in managing inflammatory acne.“
5. Fends off depression
Zinc is one of the major micronutrients involved in mental functions, learning, and behavior. Various studies show depressed patients also exhibit zinc deficiency. A 2013 clinical trial was conducted to determine the effects of zinc supplementation on patients with depression. Their conclusion showed zinc supplementation was effective in improving the patient’s symptoms. 
6. Promotes thyroid health
Perhaps one of the most important roles of zinc in the human body is the regulation of thyroid health. Hypothyroidism is common to women with PCOS, so this is of particular significance. The link between serum zinc levels and thyroid health is strong,  and a deficiency in zinc is linked to an impaired thyroid.
7. Reduces menstrual pain
In primary dysmenorrhea (cramping in the lower abdomen occurring just before or during menstruation), zinc supplementation before and during each menstrual cycle seems to be an important factor in reducing the intensity of menstrual pain. 
How Much Zinc Do You Need?
Fortunately for just about everyone, the recommended zinc dose isn’t that high, amounting to no more than 15 mg per day for healthy individuals. For those of us with PCOS, our dose should be a bit higher, ranging from 25 – 50 mg elemental zinc daily. 30 mg is a good place to begin.
Be on the lookout for the zinc form in your supplement before taking them. PCOS Diva Essentials Multivitamin is a good source of bio-available zinc.
Amy Medling, author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
- Guler, I., Himmetoglu, O., Turp, A., Erdem, A., Erdem, M., Onan, M., Taskiran, C., Taslipinar, M. and Guner, H. (2014). Zinc and Homocysteine Levels in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Patients with Insulin Resistance. Biological Trace Element Research, 158(3), pp.297-304.
- Palmery M, Saraceno A, Vaiarelli A, Carlomagno G. Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013;17(13):1804-13.
- Jayawardena R, Ranasinghe P, Galappatthy P, Malkanthi R, Constantine G, Katulanda P. Effects of zinc supplementation on diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome. 2012;4:13. doi:10.1186/1758-5996-4-13.
- Baptiste CG, Battista M-C, Trottier A, Baillargeon J-P. Insulin and hyperandrogenism in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology. 2010;122(1-3):42-52. doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2009.12.010.
- Tian X, Diaz FJ. Zinc Depletion Causes Multiple Defects in Ovarian Function during the Periovulatory Period in Mice. Endocrinology. 2012;153(2):873-886. doi:10.1210/en.2011-1599.
- Gupta M, Mahajan VK, Mehta KS, Chauhan PS. Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review. Dermatology Research and Practice. 2014;2014:709152. doi:10.1155/2014/709152.
- Ranjbar E, Kasaei MS, Mohammad-Shirazi M, et al. Effects of Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Major Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry. 2013;8(2):73-79.
- Ertek, S., Cicero, A., Caglar, O. and Erdogan, G. (2010). Relationship between serum zinc levels, thyroid hormones and thyroid volume following successful iodine supplementation. HORMONES, 9(3), pp.263-268.
- Nasiadek M, Stragieowicz J, Klimczak M, Kilanowicz A.The Role of Zinc in Selected Female Reproductive System Disorders. 2020 Aug; 12(8): 2464.