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Vitamin C Deficiency During Pregnancy May Cause Irreversible Brain Damage in Children

Update Date: Nov 17, 2012 06:39 AM EST

A new study suggests that a deficiency of vitamin C in women during pregnancy could harm the foetal brain and once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed with vitamin C supplements after the birth.

The research by scientists at the University of Copenhagen warns women against missing the daily dosage of vitamin C during pregnancy.

"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, Medical Xpress reports.

Like human beings, guinea pigs also cannot produce vitamin C themselves, and hence they were chosen as the study 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.

The findings of the current study emphasize on a healthy lifestyle of expectant mothers and their nutritional status during pregnancy.

Guinea pig pups, born with vitamin C deficiency were divided into two groups by the scientists. While one group was given Vitamin C supplements, the other was not.

However, when the pups turned two months old, the equivalent of a teenaged human child, there wasn't any improvement to be seen even in the group that was administered the vitamin .

The scientists are currently working on finding out when exactly during pregnancy does vitamin C deficiency affect the development of foetal guinea pigs.

"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.

He further says that this deficiency can be prevented if only pregnant women ate a variety of food, do not smoke, and took a multi-vitamin tablet daily during pregnancy.

"Because it takes so little to avoid vitamin C deficiency, it is my hope that both politicians and the authorities will become aware that this can be a potential problem," concludes Jens Lykkesfeldt.

The research was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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