PREGNANT women have been advised against taking Vitamin B3 just yet.
Claims the vitamin found in meats, green leafy vegetables and even Vegemite could prevent millions of miscarriages and birth defects has been called into question by obstetricians and other experts.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says the “extraordinary” suggestions by researchers at the Victor Chang Institute were based on a small mouse study and have the potential to do more harm than good.
“There are literally millions of women affected by these problems and we would just hate for women to suddenly pin their hopes on something that’s essentially a tiny little mouse study,” RANZCOG President Professor Steve Robson told AAP on Friday.
An Australian study, led by Professor Sally Dunwoodie, discovered a new cause of miscarriage and complex birth defects and also found a potential way to prevent them occurring by using dietary supplement Vitamin B3.media_camera
Using advanced whole exome sequencing technology, the researchers found a deficiency in a vital molecule, known as NAD, prevents a baby’s organs developing correctly in the womb.
This deficiency was cured and miscarriages and birth defects prevented when naiacin or Vitamin B3 supplements were given to genetically-engineered mice. “This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world,” Prof Dunwoodie said.
Victor Chang Institute Professor Robert Graham hailed the finding as “one of our country’s greatest”.
Professor Claire Roberts at the Robinson Research Institute and Adelaide Medical School at University of Adelaide says the authors have identified a genetic cause of a “rare” group of malformations at birth called VACTERL. It’s estimated about 1/20,000 babies are affected by these defects. Professor Roberts says just because niacin prevented these malformations in mice does not mean it will translate to humans.media_camera
“The Australian population is not considered to be deficient in niacin. Most breakfast cereals have niacin added to them, it is also present in meat and whole grain cereals,” Prof Roberts said.
Professor Robson from RANZCOG did not question the science but says the conclusions draw a “very long bow”.
“We urge extreme caution in applying these results to anybody’s personal situation at the moment,” said Prof Robson.
In a statement on Friday, the Victor Chang Institute stood by the “strong evidence” Vitamin B3 has the potential to prevent these birth outcomes. However it did acknowledge further evidence was needed.
“The Victor Chang Institute would never suggest this discovery will explain all causes of miscarriage and birth defects,” the statement read. “It is not known how many cases of miscarriage and birth defects are caused by low levels of NAD. It is also not yet known what dose of vitamin B3 will prevent miscarriage and birth defects.” Plans are now underway at the institute for controlled clinical trials testing the required levels of NAD and vitamin B3 in a large group of women. In the meantime, pregnant women are advised to eat a healthy diet and take folic acid.
Originally published as Vegemite vitamin claims ‘extraordinary’