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Vitamin C Can Improve Lung Function in Infants Born to Smokers

Update Date: May 19, 2014 09:55 AM EDT
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Smokers who get pregnant are recommended to quit the habit in order to reduce the risk of health complications for the fetus. Several studies have found that smoking during pregnancy can negatively impact lung development, which increases the risk of future respiratory problems for the newborn. Despite the risks involved, some women continue to smoke. Now, a new study is reporting that pregnant smokers can help improve their unborn baby's lung function by taking supplemental vitamin C pills.

According to the background information provided in the press release, roughly 50 percent of smokers do not quit the habit after getting pregnant. That rate translates to around 12 percent of all pregnancies. The researchers reported that smoking during pregnancy decreases the infant's lifelong lung function, which is measured by using a pulmonary function test (PFT).

In their study, the researchers, headed by Cindy T. McEvoy, M.D., M.C.R., of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, recruited 179 pregnant women who were smokers. 89 of them were randomly assigned to the vitamin C group while the remaining 90 were placed in the placebo group. A total of 159 babies were born with 76 born to the women from the vitamin C group and 83 born to women from the placebo group. The researchers administered the PFT test within 72 hours after birth.

"Although smoking cessation is the foremost goal, most pregnant smokers continue to smoke, supporting the need for a pharmacologic intervention," the authors wrote. "This emphasizes the important opportunity of in-utero intervention. Individuals who begin life with decreased PFT measures may be at increased risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

The team discovered that newborns from the Vitamin C group had better PFT results in comparison to the newborns from the placebo group. The researchers also monitored the infants' wheezing and found that by the age of one, the infants from the vitamin C group had decreased wheezing. The researchers noted that by the age of one, however, the infants' PFT test results were no longer significantly different.

The study was presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference.

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