zinc PCOS

Zinc for PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects up to 15 percent of women and involves many different parts of the body. Diet plays a significant role in treating PCOS with many nutrients being particularly helpful. Taking zinc for PCOS may help reduce common symptoms of this condition like unwanted hair growth and/or hair loss, acne, high blood sugar, and more.

This article explains the benefits of zinc for PCOS, food sources, and how to properly use zinc supplements.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a mineral found naturally in various foods and often added to dietary supplements. It also acts as an antioxidant, meaning it helps prevent cellular damage and has anti-inflammatory benefits.

As an essential nutrient, zinc has many important functions in the body including:
  • Immune function
  • Protein synthesis
  • Wound healing
  • Growth and development
  • Thyroid health
  • Blood sugar regulation
Women require about 8 milligrams (mg) of zinc per day, unless pregnant or breastfeeding, in which the body requires closer to 12 mg of daily zinc.

While most people meet the recommended daily allowances for zinc, there are some groups more prone to zinc inadequacy than others. For example, people following a vegetarian/vegan diet may have lower levels of zinc because the zinc in plant foods is harder for the body to absorb and use than zinc from animal sources. Interestingly, new research suggests that women with PCOS may also be at a higher risk of zinc inadequacy or deficiency. 

PCOS and Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency is more common in women with PCOS than those without the condition. This is especially true in cases of insulin-resistant PCOS. In fact, one study found that zinc levels were the most accurate predictors of PCOS even more than body mass index (BMI) or cholesterol levels (1).

Zinc deficiency and PCOS have an intricate relationship. To further explain, first consider one of the most common conventional treatments for PCOS: oral contraceptives. Women with PCOS are often prescribed the birth control pill to manage PCOS symptoms. Unfortunately, the pill does not treat the root causes of PCOS but rather covers up symptoms that will likely return if and/or when a woman decides to come off the pill.
What’s more, these oral contraceptives can deplete the body of important nutrients, like folate, vitamin B12, and zinc (2). Zinc insufficiency can then increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, and glucose intolerance which are key players in the vicious cycle of worsening PCOS. 

Blood Test for Zinc Deficiency

Zinc nutritional status is difficult to measure using lab tests due to its distribution throughout the body.  However, the concentration of zinc in blood plasma or serum is currently the best available test for zinc deficiency (3). This is why we include a plasma zinc test for every member in our Functional Medicine Program.


One of the top mineral deficiencies we see in practice…
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Foods High in Zinc

PCOS is highly responsive to positive changes in diet and lifestyle, which is why we always encourage a “food first” approach with our members.

Not only do these foods contain rich sources of zinc that may be beneficial to treating PCOS, but they also contain other important minerals for whole-body health, hormonal balance, fertility, and more. Try to incorporate a variety of these zinc-rich foods into your everyday meals and snacks (15):
  • Shellfish: oysters, crab, lobster
  • Meat: beef, turkey, pork, chicken
  • Legumes: soybeans, chickpeas, kidney beans
  • Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, pecans, cashews, almonds
  • Whole grains: oats
Dark chocolate also contains a fair amount of zinc, so you can happily choose a few squares of dark chocolate for a sweet treat!

Zinc Supplements for PCOS

Most studies showing the benefits of zinc for PCOS used around 50 mg of supplemental zinc per day. However, the upper limit for zinc is set at 40 mg, and taking too much of this mineral may cause GI upset or a subsequent copper deficiency. While more may be recommended to treat a deficiency, we generally recommend supplementing with around 15mg – 30 mg of zinc per day.

Should I take Zinc for PCOS?

Zinc has many benefits for women with PCOS including blood sugar balance, optimizing hormone production, and decreasing PCOS symptoms, like unwanted hair growth or acne. 

Taking a zinc supplement can be a very helpful factor in treating the root cause of your PCOS. However, for the best results, we also recommend a solid foundation of an anti-inflammatory diet and a balanced lifestyle to include stress management, movement, and sleep hygiene. Some people may also require more personalized treatments or additional supplements for PCOS


One of the top mineral deficiencies we see in practice…

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