Australian scientists say they may have identified what causes miscarriages and multiple birth defects.
As a result researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute believe they could also have stumbled across a simple way to help prevent miscarriages and multiple birth defects, in what has been hailed a major medical breakthrough.
One in four pregnancies in Australia result in a miscarriage and roughly 7.9 million babies are born with a birth defect worldwide, with 80 per cent of these having an unknown cause.
The benefits of Vitamin B3 and the early stage of pregnancy
A study conducted by the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute found that Vitamin B3 (or niacin) supplements benefit pregnant women GREATLY.
They believe when taken before and during pregnancy, it could prevent miscarriages and birth defects caused by nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) deficiency.
Having low levels of NAD can damage an embryo in the crucial first few weeks of pregnancy, claim experts.
“The ramifications are likely to be huge,” says Professor Sally Dunwoodie, the study’s senior researcher at the Victor Chang Institute.
“This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriage and birth defects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly.”
Researchers sequenced the genes of four families who had a history of miscarriage and birth defects, including kidney malformations, vertebral and heart problems.
They found that two gene mutations affect how NAD – which is crucial for gene development and repair – is produced.
“That alone was a huge discovery,” says Professor Dunwoodie. “This pathway had never before been associated with birth defects.”
The gene mutations were mimicked in mice embryos, and researchers found they could boost NAD levels in embryos by putting niacin into the drinking water of the pregnant mice.
“We got rid of the birth defects completely. It’s a phenomenal finding,” Professor Dunwoodie continues.
Where can you find Vitamin B3?
Vitamin B3 is found in various meats and vegetables such as turkey, peanuts, beef, and avocado.
Even our The Healthy Mummy Pregnancy Smoothies contain niacin – Vitamin B3 – as well as other essential nutrients such as folate, calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2 and iron among other things. You can learn more about The Healthy Mummy Pregnancy Smoothie here.
However, researchers DO NOT claim to have found the source of all birth defects.
“The findings might be restricted to families with multiple miscarriages and multiple birth defects, but it could have far broader relevance and affect many more families [at risk of having] babies with just one defect,” adds Professor Dunwoodie.
“What we now have is the opportunity to do more research … this prevention measure needs to be confirmed in human trials.
“If you have a [genetic] pathways not working well, environmental factors can provide additional stress, a second hit.”