Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Jul;17(13):1804-13.


Oral contraceptives (OCs) are a major class of prescription drug, used by a large proportion of women starting from early adolescence. Much research has been conducted to investigate the physiological changes that occur in women who take OCs. These include changes in general health as well as in nutritional needs. In terms of nutrition, several studies investigated whether women on OCs need different amounts of some vitamins and minerals. In particular, a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) points out that the influence of OCs on nutrient requirements is a topic of high clinical relevance and should, therefore, receive great attention. It has been shown that the key nutrient depletions concern folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E and the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc. Most research has focused on the levels of these vitamins and minerals in the blood of women who take OCs compared to women who do not. Since women who take OCs not always have adequate diet, may have unhealthy life style or may suffer from pathologies of malabsorption, the possibility to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies by taking appropriate dietary supplements should be considered a first-line approach by clinicians.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Minerals / metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Vitamins / metabolism


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins