Updated 26 October 2015

On the pill? Consider supplements

Women taking oral contraceptives have lower levels of the antioxidants coenzyme Q10 and vitamin E, and could possibly benefit from supplements, suggests a new study.


“If our findings are confirmed by larger studies, women who receive oral contraceptives may be considered for coenzyme Q10 and/or alpha-tocpherol supplementation,” wrote lead author Prabhudas Palan from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Coenzyme Q10 and alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) are both lipid-soluble antioxidants found in cell membranes. They are capable of mopping up free radicals that can lead to oxidative stress, linked to a variety of disease including Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.

The research study

The new study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Vol. 194, e35-e38), recruited 55 pre-menopausal women (average age 33) with regular menstrual cycles. Fifteen women were taking an oral contraceptive (OC) (norgestimate/ethinylestradiol) while the other 40 were not taking any (OC). Women taking multivitamins or Co-Q10 supplements were excluded.

Non-fasting blood samples were taken randomly during the menstrual cycle and serum levels of a variety of antioxidants were measured.

Gamma-tocopherol, alpha- and beta-carotene, and lycopene levels were similar between the groups. However, serum levels of Co-Q10 were 37 percent lower in the OC group, and alpha-tocopherol levels were 24 percent lower.

“The results clearly show that the use of OC significantly lowered the serum levels of coenzyme Q10 and alpha-tocopherol, compared with levels in non-OC users,” wrote the researchers.

Limitations pointed out

There are several limitations to the study, most notably the small sample size, the fact that blood samples were non-fasting and that these were taken randomly during the menstrual cycle.

In answer to the last limitation, the researchers point out that lipid-soluble antioxidants are related directly to lipid stores and not affected significantly by changes in daily intakes.

“The potential value, if any, for coenzyme Q10 and alpha-tocopherol supplementation in OC users and the effect of menstrual cycle phase on oxidative stress deserve further investigation,” they concluded.

A study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 80, pp 649-655) reported that Co-Q10 together with alpha-tocopherol could reduce levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a pro-inflammatory protein linked to CVD.

Source: Decision News Media

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