New research in the New England Journal of Medicine has revealed a discovery that could help hundreds of prospective mothers around the world.
Head researcher Sally Dunwoodie from the Victor Chang Institute has discovered “a major cause of miscarriages, as well as heart, spinal, kidney and cleft palate problems in newborn babies”.
Most of these problems can be traced back to the lack of an important molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which helps the baby develop correctly in the womb.
“This deficiency is particularly harmful during a pregnancy, as it cripples an embryo when it is forming,” the researchers say.
Following 12 years of research, the study found that the deficiencies that happen in utero could potentially be treated by an increased intake of vitamin B3, also known as niacin.
Scientists found that before vitamin B3 was introduced into the diets of mice, some of them experienced miscarriages and had offspring born with defects.
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“After the dietary change, both the miscarriages and birth defects were completely prevented, with all the offspring born perfectly healthy,” the researchers said.
Dunwoodie says this discovery could improve preventative treatment.
However, researchers were quick to assert that vitamin B3 was not a cure-all, but did have great potential to prevent miscarriages in some instances.
“Under no circumstances do we want to offer false hope to families who have been affected by miscarriage or birth defects. However, our research provides strong evidence that vitamin B3 has the potential to prevent these terrible outcomes in some cases.”