Safety of Essential Fatty Acids in Treating PMS

An experimental study was conducted to identify the effectiveness of polyunsaturated fatty acids in treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and also its effect on cholesterol and prolactin hormone levels. The participants were assigned to two different doses of essential fatty acids (1 or 2 grams) or to a placebo. After a six-month observation period, the severity of the PMS symptoms were significantly reduced in the group taking 1 gram of essential fatty acids, and even more considerably reduced in the group taking 2 grams of essential fatty acids. No significant change was recorded in cholesterol and prolactin levels.

PMS symptoms are related to bodily functions and psychological and behavioral disturbances; and they begin a few days before menstruation begins. Almost 80 percent of women in the reproductive age group experience premenstrual symptoms. The intensity could be high enough to disrupt daily activities, apart from clinical manifestations like depression. The exact physiological make-up of PMS has not yet been clearly understood; and is perceived as a mosaic pattern of changes in levels of hormones and other biochemical entities. Recently, the use of polyunsaturated fatty acids has gained acceptance as a therapy option to treat PMS. The present study is an attempt to ensure the efficiency and also safety of the treatment.

* Symptoms were reported by 116 participants on a score card called the “Prospective Record of the Impact and Severity of Menstruation” (PRISM) questionnaire.
* They were administered a 1-gram or 2-gram dose of essential fatty acid, or a placebo over six treatment cycles.
* Improvement was evaluated based on the feedback received every month.
* Regular medical checkups helped to verify the results and evaluate safety.

* Participants who received fatty acids showed significant improvement in PMS symptoms in the first three months. A substantial reduction in symptoms was evident with the higher dose group receiving 2 g of fatty acids. Prolonged use for six months proved more beneficial.
* The treatment did not affect cholesterol levels in the participants; either at the end of three months or six months.
* Similarly, the effect on prolactin hormones was also insignificant; hence, the drug could be considered safe.
* Although the placebo group also showed statistically significant improvement in the third month, it was much lower than the improvement in the groups receiving the fatty acids.

Next steps/shortcomings
Understanding why essential fatty acids have an impact on the reduction of PMS symptoms could lead to a better understanding of the physiology behind PMS itself. The success in clinical experiments with nutrients as therapy options for PMS is probably due to their effect on fatty acid processing pathways in the body. This concept needs further examination.

Easing PMS symptoms by using polyunsaturated fatty acids has been a subject of concern, especially over the therapeutic value and effect on prolactin levels. Additional concerns have been whether taking these fatty acids affects cholesterol levels negatively. Many studies in the past have stressed that the use of minerals, like magnesium, could be key in curing PMS. This study has provided evidence to the safe and effective use of polyunsaturated fatty acids in treatment of premenstrual syndrome. Moreover, the data in this study shows that the group which had a higher quantity of fatty acids displayed a faster response. Prolonged usage of the fatty acid capsules achieved better results and nearly no effects on cholesterol and prolactin levels.

For More Information:
Essential Fatty Acids for Premenstrual Syndrome and Their Effect on Prolactin and Total Cholesterol Levels: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study
Publication Journal: Reproductive Health, 2011
By Edilberto A. Rocha Filho; José C. Lima; Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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