A Review of the Effects of Oral Contraceptives on Nutrient Status, with Especial Consideration to Folate in UK
Oral contraceptives (OCs) are widely used by a significant number of women, often commencing at early adolescence. Whilst most research has investigated the physiological effects of OCs, some studies have identified impacts upon nutritional status of certain vitamins and minerals. In this context, a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) is relevant, since women who take OCs-especially in less well-developed countries might not always have adequate diet. Furthermore, women whose life style is unhealthy, those with malabsorption pathologies, or have genetic polymorphisms that affect vitamin metabolism might also be at risk of the negative impacts on an individual’s nutrient status. This literature review investigates the effects that oral contraceptives might have upon nutrient status. It identifies potential interactions with Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, and E and folic acid as well as magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, co-enzyme Q10, and beta-carotene status. It then examines the possible consequences that induced depletion of folic acid might cause with especial focus on neural tubes defects in UK, where food supplementation with this vitamin is not yet mandatory. It suggests that in those using this form of contraception or hormone replacement therapy, it is valid to consider appropriate nutritional supplements as a complementary first line strategy in order to prevent possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies.