Correcting Vitamin B3 deficiency during pregnancy can help keep birth defects at bay, a study says.
Australian researchers at Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute say the deficiency cripples an embryo during formation.
Vitamin B3 is necessary for making nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), one of the most important molecules in all living cells.
In the study, the researchers found that despite taking vitamin supplements, at least one-third of pregnant women had low levels of vitamin B3 in their first trimester, a crucial time in pregnancy for organ development.
By the third trimester, vitamin B3 levels were low in 60% of pregnant women, indicating that the pregnant women may need more vitamin B3 than currently provided by vitamin supplements.
A deficiency in NAD molecules prevents a baby’s organs developing correctly in the womb, the researchers say.
Led by Sally Dunwoodie, the study used genomic sequencing to identify potential gene variants and included four families in which a person had multiple congenital formations.
They tested the function of the variants by studying in vitro enzyme activity and patient plasma (the fluid component of blood) — and found that the patients had reduced levels of circulating NAD.
They then used mouse models with similar variants to investigate the effect of vitamin B3 on developing embryos of mice.
Before vitamin B3 was introduced into the mother’s diet, embryos were either lost through miscarriage or the offspring were born with a range of severe birth defects.
However, after a dietary change, both miscarriages and birth defects were completely prevented, will all baby mice born perfectly healthy.
From the research, the scientists concluded that NAD deficiency causes congenital malfunction in humans and mice, and that vitamin B3 supplementation during pregnancy prevented miscarriages and birth defects in mice.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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