Dieting Moms Who Breast-Feed May Need Vitamin B6

Women who diet and exercise while breast-feeding their baby can do so as long as they continue to eat nutritious food and take a vitamin supplement.

Tuesday April 17, 2001

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women who diet and exercise while breast-feeding their baby can do so as long as they continue to eat nutritious food and take a vitamin supplement. Doing so ensures the proper levels of vitamin B6, according to a study published in a recent issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

“Previous studies have shown that women (not taking supplements) produce breast milk that is lower in nutrients like vitamin B6,”” said lead author Dr. Cheryl A. Lovelady of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “In our study, we wanted to see if women who were dieting and exercising, in addition to taking a vitamin B6 supplement had adequate levels of the nutrient in their bodies.””

Vitamin B6 is important because it aids in metabolism and in the regeneration of chemicals in the brain that may play a role in depression in the mother. Low levels of B6 in infants can adversely affect the growth and/or the mental development of the infant, explained Lovelady.

In the study, 11 women who were diagnosed as obese were instructed to restrict their diets by 500 calories per day and to exercise for 45 minutes, 4 days a week. The women also took a vitamin supplement each day that contained 2 milligrams (mg) of the nutrient B6. These women were compared with another group of 11 women who were also obese and taking the same B6 supplement. However, these women did not diet or exercise.

On average, the women in the dieting group lost about one pound per week. Both groups of women maintained healthy levels of B6, Lovelady reports.

Two of the women in the weight-loss group who stopped taking the supplement showed lower-than-recommended levels of B6 in their blood, but still had normal levels in their breast milk, Lovelady pointed out.

“If women are not eating a diet that contains a lot of B6, especially if they are dieting and exercising, they should consider taking a vitamin supplement with the recommended daily allowance of 2 mg per day,”” she told Reuters Health.

Foods rich in vitamin B6 include fortified cereals, soybeans, wheat germ, tuna, salmon and gland meats such as liver.

SOURCE: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2001;512-517.

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