Essential fatty acid supplements may ease PMS, says trial

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

A supplement containing a mix of essential fatty acids and vitamins may significantly reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), according to new research.

The study, published in Reproductive Health, ​reported that women given capsules containing 2 grams of a combination of essential lipids – including gamma linolenic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, other polyunsaturated acids and vitamin E – resulted in significantly eased PMS symptoms at both 3 and 6 months after they began supplementation.

“The administration of 1 or 2 grams of essential fatty acids to patients with PMS resulted in a significant decrease in symptom scores. Furthermore, the administration of the dietary supplement did not result in any changes in the total cholesterol in the patients evaluated,”​ said Dr Edilberto Rocha Filho, lead author of the study.

The results of the current study present some evidence in support of the use of essential fatty acids in PMS patients,” ​said Filho and his co- workers, based at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil.

The capsules were provided by the Brazilian supplement company Hebron Farmaceutica​. In the paper, the researchers said the company played no role in the study and there were no conflicts of interest.

Fatty acid link

The authors said that between 80-95 percent of women are estimated to suffer from at least one of the symptoms of PMS in the premenstrual phase of the cycle, and of these around 35 percent have symptoms severe enough to affect their routine activities.

“The negative effect of symptoms on the woman’s routine activities and quality of life may be significant, in addition to the repercussions on economic costs resulting predominantly from a reduction in productivity,”​ said Dr Filho and colleagues.

Although the full physiological causes of PMS are yet to be fully clarified, the researchers said that one possibility is that women with the syndrome are abnormally sensitive to prolactin.

They said that some studies have suggested the use of essential fatty acids as a valid therapeutic option for women with PMS, adding that because such substances do not appear to trigger any hormonal or biochemical disruptions in women, they may be considered safe.

“The objectives of the present study were to compare the effectiveness and safety of six treatment cycles with two different doses of essential fatty acids on the severity of PMS symptoms, as evaluated clinically and with the use of a graded symptom scale,” ​said the authors.

Study details

The researchers conducted the randomized placebo-controlled trial with 120 female volunteers suffering from PMS.

The women were divided into three groups that were given either 1 or 2 grams of the medication or placebo, and their symptoms were recorded over a 6-month period using the Prospective Record of the Impact and Severity of Menstruation (PRISM) calendar.

In the group treated with 1 gram of the supplement, a significant reduction in PRISM score was found, whilst for the 2-gram group, the authors reported the differences to be even more significant.

They also said that there were no statistically significant differences in prolactin or total cholesterol levels between baseline values and those recorded after six months of treatment.

Clinical improvement

Filho and co workers noted that a significant improvement in PMS symptoms was achieved in volunteers using the supplement containing the essential lipid active ingredient.

“Prolonged use of the medication for 6 months appears to result in a better clinical improvement compared to the results found after three months of treatment … This reinforces the hypothesis that its effects on PMS symptoms are the result of its interaction with prolactin receptors through the action of prostaglandin E1 whose metabolism is directly affected by essential fatty acid levels,”​ they concluded.

Source: Reproductive Health
Volume 8, Issue 2, doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-8-2
“Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study”
Authors: E.A. Rocha Filho, J.C. Lima, J.S. Pinho Neto, U. Montarroyos

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