Essential fatty acids plus vitamin E may ease pain of PMS

January 19, 2011

A mixture of essentialfatty acids and vitamin E may make the body less sensitive to a hormone blamed for pre-menstrual syndrome, according to a new Brazilian study.

In the randomized placebo-controlled trial, 120 female volunteers suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) were given either 1 or 2 grams of a supplementation containing gamma linolenic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, other polyunsaturated acids and vitamin E or placebo (1). 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 of PMS symptoms (PRISM score) was found at both 3 and 6 months, while for the 2-gram group the differences were even more significant when compared to placebo. In some of these cases the severity of symptoms fell by more than two thirds. The administration of the dietary supplement did not result in any changes in the total cholesterol levels for the patients evaluated.

The researchers commented that between 80-95% 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% have symptoms severe enough to affect their routine activities. There is also an economic impact, with time off and loss of productivity of female employees due to the syndrome. Treatments range from simple dietary changes to hormones and antidepressants.

Although the full physiological causes of PMS are yet to be fully clarified, one possibility is that women with the syndrome are abnormally sensitive to the hormone prolactin. The study results reinforce the hypothesis that the supplement’s effects on PMS symptoms are the result of its interaction with prolactin receptors.


  1. Rocha Filho E. A. et al. Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study. Reproductive Health. 2011; 8(2).