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Do oral contraceptives affect vitamin levels?

Hormonal contraception has become a revolutionary drug with an effective track record, but studies have shown that women who use oral contraceptives (also known as birth control) increase their need for certain nutrients. Find out which nutrients you may be lacking in if you're on the pill and what foods can help.

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Do oral contraceptives affect vitamin levels?

First made available back in the 1960s, oral contraceptives (also known as 'the pill') have become one of the most commonly used drugs in developed countries. What most people don't realise, however, is that taking the pill may cause nutritional side effects which are often not highlighted to the user1

Studies have shown that women who use the pill show lower levels of B vitamins, including B2, B6, folate and B12. The World Health Organization also reports that the pill has a significant effect on nutrient levels and deserves considerable attention. Specifically, they highlight folic acid, vitamin B2, B6, B12, C and E, as well as minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc as being the nutrients most affected by the pill2,3,4

It's also reported the pill negatively affects antioxidant levels, such as vitamin E and Coenzyme Q105. Additionally, if you have just had a baby (or plan to later), already show deficiencies, have had recent illness or surgery, don't follow a balanced diet, are growing, or have a family history of heart disease, then you are even more at risk of low vitamin levels6.

Luckily, there are lots of delicious, nutrient-dense foods as well as supplements that can help keep your vitamin levels in the healthy range. 

Nutrients affected by Oral Contraceptives and foods that replenish them7:


Vitamin B2

Why it's important: Vitamin B2 contributes to better energy, skin, vision, iron metabolism, reduced fatigue and protects cells from oxidative stress.

Good sources of vitamin B2: Milk, milk products, liver and vegetables

RDA (Recommended Daily Amount): 1.4 mg


Vitamin B6

Why it's important: Vitamin B6 contributes to better energy, regulates hormonal activity, supports the immune system, and reduces fatigue.

Good sources of vitamin B6: Animal and vegetable-derived foods, such as meat, milk, butter and eggs.

RDA: 1.4 mg


Vitamin B12

Why it's important: Vitamin B12 contributes to better energy, immune system, reducing fatigue, and supports normal psychological function. 

Good sources of vitamin B12: Animal products, such as meat, milk and eggs.

RDA: 2.5 mcg


Vitamin C

Why it's important: Vitamin C contributes to collagen formation, better energy, supports the immune system, protects cells against oxidative stress and reduces fatigue.

Good sources of vitamin C: Green vegetables, citrus fruits and tomatoes.

RDA: 80 mg


Vitamin E

Why it's important: Vitamin E protects cells from oxidative stress.

Good sources of vitamin E: Cereals, fruits and vegetables.

RDA: 12 mg


Magnesium

Why it's important: Magnesium contributes to reducing fatigue, balancing electrolytes, better energy and bone and teeth maintenance. 

Good sources of magnesium: Cereals, walnuts, almonds, buckwheat, lentils and green vegetables.

RDA: 375 mcg


Selenium

Why it's important: Selenium contributes to the maintenance of healthy hair and nails, the function of the immune system, normal thyroid function, and the protection of cells from oxidative stress.

Good sources of selenium: Vegetables and Brazil nuts. 

RDA: 55 mcg


Zinc

Why it's important: Zinc contributes to fertility and reproduction, maintains bone, hair, nails, skin and vision, the immune system as well as contribute to the carbohydrate, macronutrients, fatty acids and vitamin metabolism functions.

Good sources of zinc: Meat, oysters, peanuts and beans.

RDA: 10 mg


Folic acid (aka Folate)

Why it's important: Folic Acid/folate contributes to normal amino acid synthesis, blood function, supports the immune system and reduces fatigue. 

Good sources of folic: Green vegetables, legumes and eggs.

RDA: 200 mcg