In what’s been labelled one of the greatest medical discoveries for pregnancy research, Australian scientists have just revealed that vitamin B3 can have a profound effect on miscarriages and birth defects in expecting mothers.
UPDATE: 22 August, 2017
Since publication of this research experts have cautioned women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant against increasing their intake of vitamin B3 (niacin). At this stage there has been no guidelines given about the amount of vitamin B3 that should be taken, in fact, women should exercise caution when taking vitamin B3 as it could harm foetuses and nursing children when taken in high doses. You should consult your health professional before taking any vitamins during pregnancy. Also, this discovery is not a cure-all for all causes of miscarriage and birth defect risks and a lot more scientific research will follow.
A world-first discovery
Revealed this morning, the groundbreaking research was carried out by the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and is expected to significantly change the way pregnant women are cared for globally.
“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,” says Professor Sally Dunwoodie, the lead researcher from the Victor Chang Institute.
Currently one in four Australian women suffer a miscarriage, and 7.9 million babies are born with a birth defect worldwide. Until now, the cause of many of these cases has been unknown.
An astounding discovery
The landmark study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a deficiency in a vital molecule known as NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), prevents a baby’s organs from developing correctly in the womb; and was a major cause of miscarriages as well as heart, spinal, kidney and cleft palate problems in newborn babies.
“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 a common vitamin,” Professor Dunwoodie revealed.
That vitamin is B3, also known as niacin. Through their extensive research the scientists have discovered that simply boosting levels of this nutrient during pregnancy can prevent miscarriages and birth defects. Amazing.
Vitamin B3 is required to make NAD and is found in meats, green veggies and other foods such as good old Vegemite. The study found that even expecting mothers taking pregnancy supplements still had low levels of vitamin B3, indicating that pregnant women may require more vitamin B3 than is in most common supplements (particularly in the crucial first trimester).
A revolutionary and simple cure
When scientists introduced vitamin B3 to pregnant women the results were outstanding. All babies were born perfectly healthy, whereas beforehand there were embryos that were lost through miscarriage or born with severe birth defects.
The extensive research is a major achievement for Australia and is being likened to the discovery last century that confirmed folic acid can prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects in babies.
“We believe that this breakthrough will be one of our country’s greatest medical discoveries. It’s extremely rare to discover the problem and provide a preventive solution at the same time. It’s actually a double breakthrough,” said Professor Robert Graham, Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.
“Just like we now use folate to prevent spina bifida, Professor Dunwoodie’s research suggests that it is probably best for women to start taking vitamin B3 very early on, even before they become pregnant,” added Professor Graham.
And the best part is, vitamin B3 is easily accessible and affordable. So get stuck into that Vegemite ladies!
What an amazing discovery! Way to go Australia and the Victor Chang Institute research team.