Maternal vitamin C deficiency can have serious consequences for foetal brain

Published on November 16, 2012 at 1:15 AM · No Comments

Maternal vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy can have serious consequences for the foetal brain. And once brain damage has occurred, it cannot be reversed by vitamin C supplements after birth. This is shown through new research at the University of Copenhagen just published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Population studies show that between 10-20 per cent of all adults in the developed world suffer from vitamin C deficiency. Therefore, pregnant women should think twice about omitting the daily vitamin pill.

"Even marginal vitamin C deficiency in the mother stunts the foetal hippocampus, the important memory centre, by 10-15 per cent, preventing the brain from optimal development," says Professor Jens Lykkesfeldt. He heads the group of scientists that reached this conclusion by studying pregnant guinea pigs and their pups. Just like humans, guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C themselves, which is why they were chosen as the model.

"We used to think that the mother could protect the baby. Ordinarily there is a selective transport from mother to foetus of the substances the baby needs during pregnancy. However, it now appears that the transport is not sufficient in the case of vitamin C deficiency. Therefore it is extremely important to draw attention to this problem, which potentially can have serious consequences for the children affected," says Jens Lykkesfeldt.

Too late when damage is done

The new results sharpen the focus on the mother's lifestyle and nutritional status during pregnancy. The new study has also shown that the damage done to the foetal brain cannot be repaired, even if the baby is given vitamin C after birth.

When the vitamin C deficient guinea pig pups were born, scientists divided them into two groups and gave one group vitamin C supplements. However, when the pups were two months old, which corresponds to teenage in humans, there was still no improvement in the group that had been given supplements.

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