Healthy Living

Low Vitamin C in Diet During Pregnancy Leads to Poor Brain Development in Kids

vitamin C, citrus fruits
Image Keith Williamson/Flickr

Pregnant women with low levels of vitamin C in their diets have increased risk of their baby having serious health consequences that can't be undone by taking vitamin pills after birth, says a new study.

According to researchers from University of Copenhagen, a lack of vitamin C during pregnancy means a 10 to 15 percent risk of the baby having poor brain development, especially the part of the brain that's known to store memories.

About 10 to 20 percent adults in the developed world don't get enough vitamin C in their diet, researchers say.

"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 from University of Copenhagen, one of the study authors.

The studies were conducted on guinea pigs. Like us, these experimental animals can't produce vitamin C by themselves and so have to rely on dietary intake. The study included 80 guinea pigs that were pregnant. These were then randomly assigned into two groups; one having high amount of vitamin C in the diet while the other having low levels of the vitamin.

"We used to think that the mother could protect the baby. Ordinarily there is a selective transport from mother to fetus 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," said Jens Lykkesfeldt in a statement.

Vitamin C helps the body heal wounds, repair cartilage, bones and teeth. As the vitamin isn't produced or stored in the body, people must get a continuous supply of the vitamin through diet.

Recommended daily intake for pregnant women is about 85 mg (above 19 years) while lactating mothers need to take some 120 mg of Vitamin C daily, according to Office of Dietary Supplements.

Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. Broccoli, green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, sweet and white potatoes also have good amounts of vitamin C.

Researchers say that women belonging to low-income group or those who smoke may have an increased risk of having babies whose brain development remained slow due to low vitamin C levels.

"People with low economic status who eat poorly - and perhaps also smoke - often suffer from vitamin C deficiency. Comparatively speaking, their children risk being born with a poorly developed memory potential. These children may encounter learning problems, and seen in a societal context, history repeats itself because these children find it more difficult to escape the environment into which they are born," says Jens Lykkesfeldt.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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