According to a study in Australia, supplementing the diet with Vitamin B3 during pregnancy may treat molecular deficiencies in women and prevent birth defects in the newborn.
Developmental geneticist Sally Dunwoodie, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Sydney, and her team have been studying the genes that influence fetal heart and bone development for over 12 years. They observed gene mutations that affect the production of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) in four families having babies with heart and bone defects. NAD is essential for energy storage and DNA synthesis in cells.
Further study on pregnant mice revealed the use of Vitamin B3 or niacin found in mouse chow for the production of NAD in their bodies. To observe the effects of Vitamin B3, researchers fed a niacin deficient diet to the pregnant mice and observed the pups that were born. Many pups died before birth and those that were born showed birth defects similar to that observed in the human babies.
Next, the researchers fed the pregnant mice with a diet of low-dose niacin and observed a decline in the birth defects of the pups. As the richness of niacin in the diet was increased, the health of the born pups showed improvement.
“Mark my words,” says Sally. “The ramifications of this research are huge. Though more human studies are needed to recommend B3 supplementation for pregnant women, the current research suggests it may help to prevent birth defects in the newborn and reduce the number of miscarriages around the world.”