Being Deficient In Vitamin E Starves Embryo Of Vital Energy And Nutrients

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Scary thoughts of miscarriage often plague mums-to-be, especially if they’ve suffered from one in the past. However, new research suggests that eating foods rich in vitamin E, such as spinach, almonds and avocado could help reduce the chances of miscarrying.

Being Deficient In Vitamin E Starves Embryo Of Vital Energy And Nutrients

This research adds weight to the importance of vitamin E status for any woman who is planning to or might become pregnant.

According to David Stauth from Oregon State University, researchers for the first time have explained how deficient levels of vitamin E can cause neurologic damage to an embryo, failure to normally develop and ultimately death – a process that in women can be one cause of miscarriage.

The research was published by scientists from Oregon State University in Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

Severe Vitamin E Deficiency Causes Depletion Of Essential Fatty Acids

Stauth says it answers some questions about the biologic activities of vitamin E that have been debated since 1922. This is when this essential micronutrient was first discovered, in part for its role in preventing embryonic mortality.

The study, done with zebrafish embryos, showed that severe vitamin E deficiency causes the depletion of essential fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which has been shown to be of critical importance to health in multiple studies in recent years.

“When this happens, cells use glucose to prevent or reduce damage. Lacking glucose for energy, many physical and neurologic features, especially the brain, simply don’t get built, and death can be the result,” reports Stauth.

“Restoration of glucose can repair some of the damage, but some physical deformities remain.”

He reports that the study showed in the growing embryo of a zebrafish – which goes from a cell to a swimming fish in about five days – a severe vitamin E deficiency causes 70-80 percent mortality.

Being Deficient In Vitamin E Starves Embryo Of Vital Energy And Nutrients

Vitamin E Major Role In Growing Embryo

Maret Traber is from the university’s college of public health and human services and she’s also an Ava Helen Pauling Professor.

“Vitamin E has many biologic roles, only one of which is to serve as an antioxidant. In the growing embryo, vitamin E plays a major role in protecting essential fats such as DHA,” she says.

“Loss and oxidation of these fats can begin a chain reaction that involves glucose, depletes the cell of other antioxidants such as vitamin C, robs the cell of energy, and ultimately has a lethal outcome.”

Stauth reports that early in their study researchers concluded when vitamin E is deficient, the embryonic brain is literally starved of necessary energy and nutrients, particularly DHA and choline.

Prof Traber says the neurological development of zebrafish is very similar to that of humans which made them a good model for the research.

“The importance of vitamin E in embryonic development, the very earliest days of vertebrate life, is part of what actually led to its discovery,” Traber says.

“Since then we’ve learned much more about the need for this micronutrient in women.

“One study done in Bangladesh, for instance, showed that pregnant women with lower levels of vitamin E had double the risk of miscarriages as another group with adequate nutrition.”

Multivitamin Suggested For Some Women

Prof Traber says nutrition surveys suggest that about 96 percent of women in the U.S. have inadequate intakes of vitamin E in their diet.

“The problem may be of even greater concern in young adult women who avoid high-fat foods and may not have a diet rich in oils, nuts and seeds, some of the foods with the highest levels of this micronutrient. The human body can create DHA from some foods, but not vitamin E.”

She says in a human fetus, some of the most critical periods for neurologic and brain development are in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

“Given the difficulty of obtaining vitamin E in the diet, this would suggest that any woman who is planning to or may become pregnant should take a multivitamin with the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E and some other micronutrients,” she says.

Being Deficient In Vitamin E Starves Embryo Of Vital Energy And Nutrients

Foods high vitamin E include:

  • Roast sunflower seeds
  • Almonds,
  • Cooked spinach
  • Safflower oil
  • Beet greens
  • Pumpkin
  • Red peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Swordfish
  • Mango

Meanwhile, the Healthy Mummy’s Pregnancy Smoothie and Eating & Exercise Book have been specially formulated to complement, not replace, your prenatal vitamin intake.

Our nutritionists ensured that the vitamins and minerals in the smoothie are at a low level so there is no risk of doubling up on any pregnancy vitamins.

pregnancy smoothie


It is ideal as a high-protein, high-calcium snack in pregnancy. You can download the Pregnancy Smoothie Label here.

Buy your Healthy Mummy Pregnancy Smoothie HERE.

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