SEP 28, 2015 2:23 PM PDT

Birth Control Pills Can Cause Nutrient Deficiencies

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of women between the age of 17 and 44 take the birth control pill as their contraceptive method. The pill is also commonly used to relieve menstrual problems and other hormone imbalances like acne. However, because manipulating hormone levels is tricky business, there are several side effects of birth control that scientists have found to result in various nutritional deficiencies. 

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS, and official "Nutrition Diva" from QuickandDirtyTips.com, lists the various nutrient deficiencies that can develop while using birth control:
  1. B Vitamins (riboflavin, B6, B12, folic acid)
  2. Vitamin C
  3. Magnesium
  4. Zinc
"The pill is used by more than 10 million women in the U.S. only," Reinagel points out. As women continuously take the pill every month over long periods of time, "even subtle effects could add up." B vitamin deficiencies are especially dangerous. They assist with the "metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, as well as the synthesis of DNA, neurotransmitters, and other vital compounds" (Natural Health Advisory). A decrease in the functionality of these mechanisms could lead to neural defects in infants, neurological problems, anemia, depression, and confusion. 

Although a multivitamin supplement could replace missing vitamins in the diet, Reinagel pushes her listeners to obtain their nutrients straight from food. The following 6 foods she lists for great sources of nutrients for women:
  1. Lentils for folic acid
  2. Eggs/dairy/almonds for riboflavin
  3. Spinach for B6, folic acid, and magnesium
  4. Seafood for B12 and zinc
  5. Cashews for mangesium and zinc
  6. Tomato juice/orange juice for vitamin C 
Research does show that the nutrients above appear at lower levels in women on the birth control pill, but it also shows that the same women have elevated levels of iron and vitamin K. Thus, if women do choose to take a multivitamin, it is important to ensure that the supplement doesn't have iron or vitamin K to avoid too much of these nutrients entering the bloodstream. 

So why does the consumption of birth controls cause these deficiencies in the first place? The European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences answers this in a paper specifically discussing oral contraceptives and their impact on nutritional requirements. The mechanism behind these deficiencies revolves around malabsorption of ingested nutrients into the bloodstream. In addition, increased excretion of necessary nutrients in urine adds to a growing nutritional deficiency. Thus, as Reinagel suggests, women on the pill must make sure they are consuming excessive amounts of these nutrients to ensure the required amount for the body to function properly get absorbed into the blood and transported to the tissues. 

Check out the video below to learn more about how birth control pills work as a contraceptive. 


Source: Scientific American
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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