Sometimes complex problems have simple solutions hiding in plain sight. In what may turn out to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in science, scientists from Australia have found that vitamin B3 supplements may help prevent many miscarriages and birth defects.
The new study published New England Journal of Medicine, identified a major cause of miscarriages and congenital malformations. Some researchers say it’s a double-breakthrough, as they found both the cause and a preventative solution.
After 12 years of research, the Australian researchers found that deficiency in a vital molecule known as Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) damages embryos in the crucial first weeks of pregnancy when organs start forming.
The researchers suggest this deficiency can be prevented by adding vitamin B3, also called niacin, into the diet. The vitamin is required to make NAD. It is naturally found in meat, green vegetables, and a yeast extract vegemite (Australian equivalent of marmite).
An estimated 7.9 million babies are born with serious defects every year worldwide. The cause has largely remained a mystery. About 500,000 pregnancies are lost to miscarriages per year in the United States. A miscarriage is a traumatic experience for an expectant mother.
The researchers analyzed families where mothers had suffered miscarriages or their babies were born with multiple birth defects. These included vertebral defects, cardiac defects, and renal anomalies, among other defects.
It was found that before vitamin B3 was introduced into the pregnant mother’s diet, embryos were either lost through miscarriage or babies born with severe birth defects.
After introduction vitamin B3 into the diet, miscarriages and birth defects were prevented and babies born healthy.
Niacin (vitamin B3) may soon join folate (folic acid) as a vital prenatal supplement. Folate has been used during pregnancy to prevent spina bifida, which too can cause miscarriage and birth defects. Typically, pregnant women are advised to take a multivitamin which contains niacin, but they may have to start taking more than currently suggested.
Besides multivitamin and/or folate, taking a good quality fish oil supplement is also recommended.
The researchers suggest that it is best for women to start taking vitamin B3 supplements as early as possible during pregnancy, or even before getting pregnant.
Of course, always consult your doctor before starting on a supplement, especially when pregnant.
For a more detailed report go to Medical News Today.