Vitamin B3 dose can 'prevent miscarriage'

Vitamin B3 supplement prevents birth defects

Supplementing the diet with vitamin B3 during pregnancy may treat the molecular deficiencies in women that can lead to birth defects, according to a landmark study in Australia.

Dr. Katie Morris, an expert in fetal medicine at the University of Birmingham, said: "While exciting, this discovery can not be translated into recommendations for pregnant women, who at most may be deficient in vitamin B3".

Professor Sally Dunwoodie, co-author of a study into the findings, from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, said: "The ramifications are likely to be huge". The team found that the family carried a mutation in a gene related to the production of NAD, a molecule crucial for energy storage and DNA synthesis in cells.

Vitamin B3, found in meat and vegetables, is needed to make NAD, so they tested the effect of taking the supplement on developing mice embryos with NAD deficiencies similar to those in human ones.

It's found in meat, poultry, green vegetables and even Vegemite, yet nearly a third of pregnant women are deficient in the vitamin. Scientists at the Victor Chang Institute found that simply boosting levels during pregnancy can prevent miscarriages and birth defects.

The research, which has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, began in 2005 when Dunwoodie's team analysed the genomes of a couple who had a child with serious defects in the heart and backbone.

It's been hailed a breakthrough.

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Globally, nearly eight million babies are born with a birth defect each year and one in four pregnant women in Australia suffers a miscarriage. "It's actually a double breakthrough".

"Today's announcement provides new hope to the one in four pregnant women who suffer a miscarriage", Mr Hunt said, citing Australian data.

The researchers then tried feeding the knock-out pregnant mice a diet that did not include niacin.

"The promise is that this could significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and babies born with defects", Dunwoodie said.

"The Australian population is not considered to be deficient in niacin", she says.

"The doses used in this research were 10 times the recommended daily doses for supplementation in women". "But, we're not all the same in how we absorb nutrients", she said, adding that body mass index and diabetes can influence how a woman produces NAD.

The yeast extract - which is loved and loathed in equal measure - contains vitamin B3, a lack of which scientists now believe may cause miscarriages.

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