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75% Pill Takers Fall Short on Vitamin B6

This May 9th marks the 49th anniversary of the birth control pill — the most common contraceptive method in America. If you are on the pill then you may want to eat morebananas, potatoes, turkey breast and wild salmon. All are top sources of vitamin B6, levels of which are lower among women taking oral contraceptives. A recent demographic study from Tufts University looked at vitamin B6 levels among roughly 6,500 people of all ages. While deficiency was rare among the general population, up to 78% of woman on the pill had low levels of vitamin B6!

The reason? Vitamin B6 is involved in metabolizing estrogen. Hormonal contraceptives elevate estrogen levels thus putting more demand on B6 stores. Higher intakes of vitamin B6 (over 3mg/day as opposed to the 1.3mg RDA) appeared to compensate this effect.

Vitamin B6 helps protect the heart, support immunity and reduce colorectal cancer risk. Vitamin B6 also plays a key role in DNA defense — which is why Washington State University study subjects on a low B6 diet exhibited a 75% increase in DNA-strand breaks.

Diet, weight and fertility status are intricately intertwined. For example, extra pounds may undermine the efficacy of the pill. For those not taking contraceptives, dietary choices can affect pregnancy outcomes. Women who consume milk and other animal products were five times more likely to have twins compared to their vegan counterparts. A high-fat diet during pregnancy appeared to increase the odds of offspring ending up obese, in animal studies. On the other hand, eating more fruit and vegetables not only protects expecting moms from unhealthy weight gain, it may prevent their unborn children from developing leukemia.

Published May 1, 2009

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