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Vitamin B3 can prevent miscarriages and birth defects

10 August 2017

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the Victor Chang Institute found this deficiency can be very risky during pregnancy, crippling an embryo as it forms in the womb.

This historic discovery, believed to be among Australia's greatest ever medical breakthroughs, is expected to change the way pregnant women are cared for around the globe.

Vitamin B3 can cure molecular deficiencies including NAD, the scientists said in a study published last Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Led by Professor Sally Dunwoodie from the Victor Chang Institute, researchers identified a major cause of miscarriages as well as heart, spinal, kidney and cleft palate problems in newborn babies.

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"Arguably, it's the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate", Dunwoodie told Sophie Scott at ABC News, in reference to the landmark research that showed folic acid could reduce the incidence of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

Apparently, during their research, by increasing a pregnant woman's vitamin-B intake upped the embryo's NAD levels, which, in turn, could be indicitave of the potential to dramatically slash miscarriage and congenital malformations across the world.

When female mice with the mutation gave birth, many of their pups died or were born with significant defects - but counterparts fed diets including B3 supplements gave birth to healthier offspring.

But, a recent study found despite taking vitamin supplements at least one in three pregnant women have low levels of B3 in their first trimester - a critical time for a baby's organ development.

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More research will be needed to work out the best way to consume B3 (a supplement may be better than Marmite on toast, for example), and the researchers say they'll need to look at current pregnancy supplements on the market, which may not have enough B3.

"Now, after 12 years of research, our team has also discovered that this deficiency can be cured and miscarriages and birth defects prevented by taking a common vitamin".

B3 can be found in everything from Vegemite, red meat, vegetables and supplements. "It's actually a double breakthrough", said Robert Graham, Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

Scientists are now working on a test to measure levels of NAD, to work out which women have a higher likelihood of miscarriage, and could therefore benefit from a B3 supplement.

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Vitamin B3 can prevent miscarriages and birth defects