In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a team proved birth defects and miscarriages could be overcome by taking vitamin B3. The head of the Victor Chang Institute, Professor Bob Graham, said the discovery could potentially help millions of women around the world.
The study says that an extra dose of vitamin B3 might help prevent certain kinds of complex birth defects, The vitamin can help compensate for defects in the body’s ability to make a molecule, called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD).
Researchers have linked this for the first time to healthy fetal development in humans. The finding raises the possibility that boosting levels of B3 in pregnant women’s diets might help lower overall rates of miscarriages.
Scientists from the Victor Chang Institute in Sydney investigated why some women have multiple miscarriages and some babies are born with heart, kidney and spinal defects. They found a major cause.
The major cause was a deficiency of a vital molecule known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is important for normal development of organs. Lead researcher Professor Sally Dunwoodie said it was the first time NAD been associated with miscarriages and birth defects.
NAD is usually formed in the body as part of a healthy diet that includes eggs, cheese, salmon, turkey, nuts and seeds. But you can also get it by taking supplements of vitamin B3. A pregnant mice was also used to also conduct the research.
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“We gave pregnant mice with the NAD gene knocked out a regular dose of vitamin B3 and we found it prevented miscarriages and birth defects, over-riding the genetic block,” Professor Dunwoodie said.
Clinical geneticist David Amor, from the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, said the key finding was the mechanism that a genetic deficiency of NAD could cause birth defects. While vitamin B3 was shown to prevent birth defects in mice, he said in humans it was yet to be determined.
“What is most interesting is that these defects are potentially treatable if the mother is given niacin [vitamin B3] supplementation during pregnancy,” he said.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said it was an exciting development but may be premature to compare it to the discovery about folate. According to them most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities which are not caused by a vitamin deficiency.
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“Most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities which are not caused by a vitamin deficiency or a mineral deficiency, so it’s not modifiable,” said the AMA’s president Michael Gannon.
Telethon Institute’s Carol Bower called it an exciting advance but said it was not clear if a lack of vitamin B3 was totally the only cause of birth defects or whether some dietary supplements could also prevent these defects in birth.
Research has shown that one third of women have low levels of NAD in their blood and aren’t getting enough B3 vitamin in their pregnancy supplements. Scientists say women should take the recommended daily amount of B3 for pregnancy, which is 18 milligrams per day.
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But Professor Dunwoodie said women who have problems absorbing nutrients, including those with diabetes, a high body-mass index or inflammatory bowel disease, may need a larger amount. She said researchers would now start working on a test to measure a woman’s NAD levels.
According to Dunwoodie, the goal is to have a quick and easy test that could be done at the same time as a pregnancy test, either in urine or blood. This will determine the level or amount of NAD in a woman’s body.
Photo credit: Facebook
Tags: birth defects, miscarriage, Vitamin B3
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Thanks for sharing
This is good to know. Thanks for sharing MIM.
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