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Vitamin B12

Prenatal Vitamin B12 Important to Prevent Neural Tube Defects

Thursday, May 07, 2009 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: vitamin B12, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) Insufficient levels of B12 during the first four weeks of pregnancy may lead to lifelong neurological defects, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health.

"An absolutely critical point is that women have to consider this before they become pregnant because once they realize they are pregnant it's likely to be too late," researcher James Mills said.

The neural tube of an infant forms very early in development, within the first four weeks of a pregnancy. Scientists have long known that a deficiency of the B vitamin folic acid during this period can cause the neurological system to develop improperly. This may lead to crippling neural tube defects such as spina bifida -- malformation of the spine and backbone -- or fatal ones such as anencephaly, in which the brain and skull fail to form correctly.

In the current study, researchers tested the B12 blood levels of 1,200 Irish women early in their pregnancies. They found that the 25 percent of women with the lowest B12 levels were five times more likely to give birth to a child with a neural tube defect than the 25 percent of women with the highest levels of the vitamin. This effect was independent of folic acid levels.

The researchers expressed hope that their study would lead to better awareness among women of the importance of B12, much as awareness of folic acid has led to a significant drop in rates of neural tube defects.

According to the researchers, women hoping to become pregnant should maintain vitamin B12 blood levels higher than 300 nanograms per liter. The vitamin is found in all animal-based foods, nutritional yeast and fortified breakfast cereals. The researchers warned that those who do not eat animal products or who have intestinal conditions that might interfere with vitamin absorption need to be particularly aware of their vitamin B12 levels.

Sources for this story include: uk.reuters.com.

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