Australian researchers from the Victor Chang Institute in Sydney claim that taking a B3 supplement can significantly prevent miscarriages and birth defects after in what is being hailed as a landmark study.
The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week, found that a major cause of miscarriages and birth defects is linked to a deficiency of a molecule known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD. This molecule is important for the normal development of organs including the heart, kidneys, spine and more.
NAD is found in all living cells. It is needed to make energy and repair genes. However, this is the first study linking NAD to miscarriages.
“Arguably it is the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate,” said Professor Sally Dunwoodie, the lead research in the study, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “We have discovered a whole, new cause of birth defects and a way to treat it as well.”
Miscarriage and birth defects are worldwide issues. According to the Mayo Clinic miscarriage affects 20 percent of known pregnancies while the March of Dimes says 6 percent of babies are born with birth defects.
NAD is usually found in the body when people are eating healthy diets that include eggs, cheese, lean meat proteins, nuts and seeds. However, you can also get it by taking supplements with the B3 vitamin.
The study looked at the lack of B3 in 13 families. They sequenced the genomes for those families, all of which had children with birth defects impacting the spine, heart, kindey and more. The researchers identified gene mutations in some of the mothers with a B3 deficiency who were unable to make NAD.
Mice without the NAD gene were then given a regular dose of B3 and it was found to prevent miscarriages and birth defects. Without the supplement they either miscarried or had pups with birth defects.
The study was based off a New Jersey Medical School study, which found that one third of women have low B3 during their first trimester when vital organs are developing. It also found that the levels continued to drop during pregnancy and by the third trimester 60 percent of women were low in B3, a sign that prenatal vitamins are not delivering the enough B3 throughout pregnancy.
The Australian Medical Association said the study was exciting but findings may be premature. Professor Dunwoodie said that researchers will now beginning working to develop a test to measure a woman’s NAD levels.
To see additional parenting research, check out our news section.