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Essential Fatty Acids, Vitamin E Reduce PMS Symptoms


For women who suffer with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including mood swings, fatigue, food cravings, and tender breasts, a pill containing essential oils and vitamin E may bring relief. That is the finding of new research presented in the journal Reproductive Health.

PMS symptoms are relieved with essential fatty acids

Approximately 75 percent of menstruating women experience some degree of PMS symptoms. For some women, the physical and emotional symptoms are so severe their daily lives are disrupted. In addition to the symptoms already mentioned, problems with concentration, crying spells, joint or muscle pain, headache, sleep disturbances, weight gain, constipation, diarrhea, and anxiety can be added to the list.

Scientists from the Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil, have discovered that a supplement containing various essential fatty acids, as well as vitamin E, can significantly reduce PMS symptoms as soon as three months after starting treatment.

Edilberto Rocha Filho and his research team reported that “administration of 1 or 2 grams of essential fatty acids to patients with PMS results in a significant decrease in symptoms scores.” These improvements were achieved without a corresponding increase in total cholesterol.

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A total of 120 women (average age, 32 years) participated in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, which lasted six months. The supplements contained 210 mg of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), 175 mg of oleic acid, 345 mg of linoleic acid, 250 mg of other polyunsaturated acids, and 20 mg of vitamin E.

Women who took the supplement for six months experienced a bigger improvement than those who took the supplement for three months. Only one woman in the treatment groups experienced mild abdominal discomfort, which disappeared during the second month of taking the supplement.

Gamma linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid found mostly in vegetable oils, including evening primrose, borage, and black currant seed. Most of these oils also contain linoleic acid. Once in the body, linoleic acid is converted to GLA. Research suggests GLA helps reduce inflammation. Much of the GLA taken as a supplement is transformed into DGLA, which is an anti-inflammatory.

Oleic acid is a monounsaturated, omega-9 fatty acid. It is found in vegetables oils, including olive oil, and has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.

This is not the first study to show that essential fatty acids may help relieve PMS symptoms. Other effective remedies may include calcium, chasteberry, ginkgo, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

Mayo Clinic
Rocha Filho EA et al. Reproductive Health 2011 Jan 17; 8:2
University of Maryland Medical Center