Taking a remarkably common vitamin supplement, Vitamin B3 (or niacin), before and during pregnancy could be the deterrence to miscarriages and birth defects during pregnancy, scientists announced on Thursday.
The scientists led by a team of researchers in Sydney said the vitamin could be used to treat a molecule deficiency known as NAD deficiency, which stops embryos and babies’ organs from developing correctly in the womb.
The historic study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine was hailed as a “huge” breakthrough in pregnancy research, is expected to change the way pregnant women are cared for around the globe.
High niacin foods include mushrooms, fish, chicken, turkey, pork, liver, peanuts, beef, green peas, sunflower seeds, and avocados.
“Now, after 12 years of research, our team has also discovered that this deficiency can be cured and miscarriages and birth defects prevented by taking this common vitamin,” said Prof Sally Dunwoodie, a biomedical researcher at the research pioneering Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.
Prof Dunwoodie has identified a major cause of miscarriages as well as heart, spinal, kidney and cleft palate problems in newborn babies.
“The ramifications are likely to be huge. This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly.”
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt hailed the study as a “historic medical breakthrough”.
“Today’s announcement provides new hope to the one in four pregnant women who suffer a miscarriage,” Mr Hunt said, citing Australian data.
“And with 7.9 million babies around the world currently being born with birth defects every year, this breakthrough is incredible news.”
The scientists used genetic sequencing on families suffering from miscarriages and birth defects and found gene mutations that affected production of the molecule, NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).
With Vitamin B3, which is found in meat and vegetables, needed to make NAD, they tested the effect of taking the supplement on developing mice embryos that had similar deficiencies as human ones, and found a significant change.
“Before Vitamin B3 was introduced into the (mice) mother’s diet, embryos were either lost through miscarriage or the offspring were born with a range of severe birth defects,” the Victor Chang Institute said in a statement.