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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Vitamin D deficiency in polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common female endocrine disorders. PCOS is a complex endocrine and gynecological disorder thought to be genetic. PCOS is found in approximately 5% of women of reproductive age. It is a leading cause of female infertility and certainly the most frequent endocrine problem in women of reproductive age. I have written about PCOS before.

The principal features of PCOS are lack of ovulation resulting in irregular periods, few or no periods, infertility, and ovaries with multiple cysts. Women with PCOS also have excessive male hormone levels resulting in acne and hairiness. They also have insulin resistance, are often obese with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. The symptoms vary greatly among affected women. Diazoxide (Proglycem), an anti-hypertensive that also decreases insulin secretion, is often used to treat PCOS.

Dr John Nestler and colleagues of the Medical College of Virginia recently tested vitamin D levels on eight women with PCOS, before and after treating them with diazoxide 100 mg three times per day for 12 days.

Nestler JE, Reilly ER, Cheang KI, Bachmann LM, Downs RW Jr. A pilot study: effects of decreasing serum insulin with diazoxide on vitamin d levels in obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2012;123:209-20.

At baseline, the 8 women with PCOS had significantly lower 25(OH)D than did the 9 controls (P =0.012). The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, defined as a serum 25(OH)D level < 20 ng/mL, was 100% in the PCOS group versus 55.6% in the 9 members of the control group. The prevalence of severe vitamin D deficiency, defined as a serum 25(OH)D level < 10ng/mL, was 87.5% in the PCOS group versus 22.2% in the control group. Vitamin D binding protein and activated vitamin D levels did not differ significantly between the two groups at baseline.

After 12 days of diazoxide treatment, the 25(OH)D levels of the women with PCOS went from a mean of about 7.5 ng/ml to 10.5 ng/ml. However, the 25(OH)D levels of the 9 control women fell from 15 ng/ml to 10 ng/ml. In the PCOS women on diazoxide, the serum testosterone and the serum insulin fell significantly.

As their number are quite small, only a few conclusions about diazoxide treatment can be gathered by this paper. It is helpful in treating PCOS by lowering insulin and testosterone levels.

Does diazoxide also raise vitamin D levels? The paper found it did but the levels of the control group fell for unknown reasons (the season of the year of the study was not disclosed), so no significant differences between groups were noted. Perhaps diazoxide also raises vitamin D levels and that may be one of its mechanisms of action, much like the statins.

Bhattacharyya S, Bhattacharyya K, Maitra A. Possible mechanisms of interaction between statins and vitamin D. QJM. 2012 May;105(5):487-91.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

3 Responses to Vitamin D deficiency in polycystic ovary syndrome

  1. Rita and Misty says:

    This was a very helpful…thanks. :)

    I’ve suffered on and off from female endocrine disorders since age 11 until two years ago at age 46…a very long time to feel ill…an entire lifetime, really.

    My health cleared up once my 25(OH)D level reached around 75 ng/ml.

    I am open to sharing my ailments and how D has benefited me, but rather than bore uninterested members, I will provide contact information. If you are currently suffering from female endocrine issues and would like to hear my story:

    (203) 785-6269

  2. eelisabethpuur@gmail.com says:

    In Sweden we have come far with changing the unhealthy low-fat-high-carb diet to a low-carb-healthy-fat diet. When a woman with PCOS changes her diet, her symptoms disappear most of the time, but there is no going back to a high-carb-high-processed-low-fat-HCFS-diet.

    I can´t understand why anyone would like to take medications, when it is so much easier to change the diet. And beware of the exceed in omega6-fatty acids, say no to corn-, soy- and sunflower oil. Beware of gluten.

    @Rita and Misty, stick to you paleo, but don not forget to eat enough real butter, lard and coconut oil, also perhaps some olive oil.

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    Thank you @ eelissa,

    I am sticking to that Paleo diet; and, I do feel wonderful.