Selenium And Its Potential Benefits for PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a prevalent endocrine disorder that affects a significant percentage of women worldwide. Its impact extends beyond fertility issues and irregular menstruation, posing long-term health risks if left untreated. One of the key factors associated with PCOS is oxidative stress, which can lead to ovarian hyperplasia and affect the quality of oocytes, leading to undesirable pregnancy outcomes. This blog post delves into the potential benefits of selenium, an essential trace element known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, for women battling PCOS. 

We'll start by getting a greater understanding of what selenium is its role in women's health, particularly its impact on hormonal balance and its antioxidant properties. The focus will then shift to the link between selenium and PCOS, providing a detailed exploration of selenium's potential benefits for PCOS based on clinical studies, and discuss how selenium may help in managing issues such as hirsutism and acne.

The blog will also guide you on how to incorporate selenium into your diet, highlighting selenium-rich foods and the potential need for supplements. We'll also discuss potential challenges and considerations, such as managing selenium deficiency and personalising selenium intake. This comprehensive guide aims to provide valuable insights into the potential benefits of selenium supplementation for women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

What is Selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a crucial role in the health of every human being. Despite its importance, it is required only in small amounts. Selenium is a key component of various enzymes and proteins, known as selenoproteins, which are essential for maintaining the body's antioxidant defense system. These selenoproteins help prevent cellular damage from free radicals, compounds that can lead to chronic diseases. Additionally, selenium supports the immune system, helps regulate thyroid function, and plays a role in maintaining a healthy metabolism.

Moreover, selenium is involved in the synthesis of DNA and protects against infection and damage caused by oxidative stress. This underscores the mineral's significance not just for general health but also as a potential ally in the fight against PCOS, where oxidative stress plays a pivotal role in the progression of the condition. Given its wide-ranging benefits, understanding selenium's role in the body and its importance in conditions like PCOS is essential for anyone looking to optimise their health.

Selenium is found naturally in the soil, which means it makes its way into our diet primarily through the foods we consume. The richest dietary sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, which are so potent that just one or two nuts can provide the recommended daily intake. Other significant sources are seafood, such as tuna, halibut, and sardines, which not only offer selenium but also omega-3 fatty acids beneficial for heart health. Meats like turkey, chicken, and beef, as well as eggs, are also excellent sources of selenium.

Vegetarians and vegans need not worry, as plant-based options like sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and whole grains also contribute to selenium intake. It's important to note, however, that the selenium content in plant-based foods can vary greatly depending on the selenium content of the soil in which they were grown. This variability underscores the importance of a balanced diet to ensure adequate selenium intake, especially for individuals managing PCOS, where optimal selenium levels can support overall well-being. 

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Benefits of Selenium for PCOS 

This section delves into the scientific exploration of selenium's potential benefits for individuals battling PCOS. Through a series of clinical studies, we uncover how selenium supplementation could play an important role in the management of this syndrome. From its effectiveness in PCOS treatment to its impact on weight management and the alleviation of symptoms such as hirsutism and acne, selenium presents a persuasive case for inclusion in the PCOS management toolkit.

1. Reducing Oxidative Stress

The body's defense against oxidative stress hinges on various antioxidants, with selenium being a key player. It helps to neutralize excess free radicals, protecting cells from damage. For women with PCOS, this is particularly beneficial as oxidative stress is linked to insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and inflammation, all of which play a role in the condition. By mitigating oxidative stress, selenium supplementation could potentially improve the metabolic and reproductive aspects of PCOS.

Studies^1 have shown that selenium is integral to the function of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that further defends against oxidative damage. This synergistic action reinforces the body's antioxidant defense system, and while selenium won't cure PCOS, its antioxidant capacity can be a valuable tool in a comprehensive approach to managing the condition.

2. Balancing Insulin

Research indicates that selenium supplementation can lead to significant improvements in insulin resistance parameters, a common issue in PCOS patients. For instance, a study^2 demonstrated that women receiving selenium supplements experienced a notable decrease in serum insulin levels and an improvement in the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), compared to those who received a placebo.

Furthermore, selenium's antioxidant properties have been found in studies^3 to positively impact the hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS. By reducing oxidative stress, selenium supplementation can help in restoring the balance between pro-oxidant molecules and antioxidant defenses, potentially improving the quality of oocytes and enhancing fertility outcomes. This is particularly beneficial for PCOS patients struggling with infertility issues.

3. Managing Hirsutism and Acne

The battle against hirsutism and acne, common and distressing symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), might have found a promising ally in selenium. This essential trace element, known for its antioxidant properties, plays a crucial role in maintaining hormonal balance and supporting skin health. Selenium's antioxidant capabilities help in reducing oxidative stress, a condition often linked with PCOS, thereby potentially mitigating the severity of hirsutism and acne.

Clinical observations^4 suggest that selenium supplementation could influence the activity of selenoproteins, which are pivotal in antioxidant defense and hormonal regulation. By enhancing the body's antioxidant capacity, selenium aids in combating the inflammation associated with acne. Moreover, its involvement in thyroid function regulation might indirectly impact androgen levels, contributing to a reduction in hirsutism.

While the direct effects of selenium on hirsutism and acne in PCOS patients need further exploration, its overall benefits for hormonal and metabolic health make it a nutrient of interest. Incorporating selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, seafood, and eggs into the diet could offer a complementary approach to managing PCOS symptoms. However, it's essential to consult healthcare professionals before starting any supplementation, as excessive intake can lead to adverse effects.

Despite these promising findings, it's important to approach selenium supplementation with caution. The optimal dosage and duration of selenium supplementation for PCOS treatment are still under investigation, and excessive intake can lead to adverse effects. Therefore, it's advisable to consult your doctor or a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation regimen. As research continues to evolve, the potential of selenium as a therapeutic agent for PCOS remains a promising avenue for future studies.

Selenium Supplements: Should You Consider Them?

When it comes to managing polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the role of diet cannot be overstated. Among the myriad of nutrients essential for mitigating the symptoms of PCOS, selenium stands out for its antioxidant properties. While incorporating selenium-rich foods into your diet is a step in the right direction and is sufficient for most people, the question of whether to take selenium supplements is worth considering if you have PCOS.

Symptoms of selenium deficiency are often subtle and can include fatigue, muscle weakness, and hair loss, making it challenging to diagnose based on symptoms alone. To manage selenium deficiency effectively, healthcare professionals often recommend dietary adjustments or supplementation. As we've seen, foods rich in selenium, such as Brazil nuts, seafood, and eggs, can help elevate selenium levels naturally, however, the amount of selenium in food sources can vary significantly depending on the selenium content of the soil where the food was grown. In cases where dietary adjustments are insufficient or impractical, selenium supplements may be prescribed. It's essential to approach supplementation with caution, as excessive selenium intake can lead to toxicity, with symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal upset to more severe neurological and cardiovascular issues.

Regular monitoring of selenium levels through blood tests can help tailor the intake to individual needs, ensuring optimal levels are maintained without crossing into the territory of excess. Collaborating closely with your doctore or healthcare professional to adjust selenium intake based on ongoing assessments is key to maximising the benefits of selenium in managing PCOS, while minimising potential risks associated with its deficiency or excess.They can help determine what supplementation is necessary based on your dietary intake, health status, and specific needs related to PCOS.

Moreover, individual health conditions and medications can influence selenium requirements. For instance, individuals with gastrointestinal disorders may have impaired selenium absorption, necessitating a tailored supplementation plan. Additionally, certain medications can interact with selenium, altering its effectiveness or leading to potential toxicity. Therefore, consulting with a doctor or healthcare professional is essential to evaluate these factors and determine an appropriate selenium supplementation strategy. 

Lastly, genetic factors can influence how selenium is metabolised and utilised in the body, further emphasising the need for a personalised approach. By considering these aspects, and working with your healtcare professional, individuals with PCOS can safely incorporate selenium supplementation into their management plan, optimising its benefits while minimising risks. Remember, supplements should complement, not replace, a balanced diet rich in selenium foods. 

How long does it take to see benefits from increasing selenium intake for PCOS? 

When considering selenium supplementation for managing polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common question is about the timeline for observing tangible benefits. The answer isn't straightforward, as the response to selenium can vary widely among individuals. Generally, improvements in symptoms or biochemical markers might be noticeable after consistent supplementation for a few weeks to several months. Studies, including randomised controlled trials, have shown that effects such as reduced insulin resistance and improved lipid profiles can be observed within 8 weeks of daily selenium intake. However, it's crucial to remember that selenium's impact on PCOS is multifaceted, influencing insulin metabolism, oxidative stress levels, and potentially even fertility outcomes. Therefore, while some benefits might be seen relatively quickly, the full spectrum of advantages from selenium supplementation, especially concerning long-term reproductive health, may take longer to manifest. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare professional to tailor the supplementation to your specific needs and monitor your progress.

Conclusion: Selenium's Potential for PCOS Management 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex and multifaceted condition that affects a significant proportion of women worldwide. The role of selenium, an essential trace element, in managing PCOS has been a subject of extensive research and discussion. Selenium's antioxidant properties and its role in hormonal balance make it a potential ally in the fight against PCOS.

Clinical studies^3 have shown that selenium supplementation can have a positive impact on PCOS treatment. It has been found to improve Total Antioxidant Capacity (TAC) in PCOS patients, potentially improving follicle quality and fertility outcomes. However, it's important to note that selenium supplementation does not significantly improve other key health markers such as Body Mass Index (BMI), lipid profiles, and insulin resistance. Therefore, while selenium may offer some benefits, it should not be considered a standalone treatment for PCOS. 

Incorporating selenium into your diet can be achieved through consuming selenium-rich foods or through supplementation. However, it's crucial to be mindful of the recommended daily intake and safety limits of selenium to avoid potential side effects. Consulting with your doctor or healthcare professional to personalise your selenium intake based on your individual health needs is very important.

Despite the potential benefits of selenium, it's important to recognise the complexity of PCOS and the need for a comprehensive treatment approach. Selenium supplementation may be a valuable part of a broader treatment plan, but it's not a magic bullet. It's also important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the role of selenium in PCOS management.

In conclusion, while selenium may offer some benefits for women with PCOS, it should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan and not as a standalone solution. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.


  1. Barchielli G, Capperucci A, Tanini D. The Role of Selenium in Pathologies: An Updated Review. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022 Jan 27;11(2):251. doi: 10.3390/antiox11020251. PMID: 35204134; PMCID: PMC8868242.
  2. Jablonska E, Reszka E, Gromadzinska J, Wieczorek E, Krol MB, Raimondi S, Socha K, Borawska MH, Wasowicz W. The Effect of Selenium Supplementation on Glucose Homeostasis and the Expression of Genes Related to Glucose Metabolism. Nutrients. 2016 Dec 13;8(12):772. doi: 10.3390/nu8120772. PMID: 27983572; PMCID: PMC5188427.
  3. Zhao J, Dong L, Lin Z, Sui X, Wang Y, Li L, Liu T, Liu J. Effects of selenium supplementation on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis on randomized clinical trials. BMC Endocr Disord. 2023 Feb 6;23(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12902-023-01286-6. PMID: 36740666; PMCID: PMC9901141.
  4. Rubin MG, Kim K, Logan AC. Acne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: a report of cases. Lipids Health Dis. 2008 Oct 13;7:36. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-7-36. PMID: 18851733; PMCID: PMC2577647.

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