Women who suffer from a vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy are putting their babies at risk for brain damage, says new research at the University of Copenhagen recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. More alarmingly, giving babies vitamin c supplements after birth does nothing to repair the brain damage.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed for normal growth and development including forming skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels; helping heal wounds and form scar tissue; and repairing and maintaining cartilage, bones, and teeth. Vitamin C is not produced by the body, so foods and supplements are the body’s only source of vitamin c.
Current population studies indicate that between 10 and 20 percent of all adults in the developed world suffer from vitamin C deficiency.
Among pregnant women, vitamin c deficiency stunts the growth of the developing baby’s hippocampus, resulting in permanent brain damage.
As Professor Jens Lykkesfeldt of the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark explains on Medical News Today:
“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.”
To prevent the brain damage associated with a vitamin c deficiency, all pregnant women should consider taking a vitamin c supplement.
To study the effects of vitamin c and vitamin c deficiency on babies, the researchers in the study looked at pregnant guinea pigs and their pups. Like humans, guinea pigs do not produce their own vitamin c and must get the nutrient through dietary sources.
In addition to the brain damage caused by a vitamin c deficiency during pregnancy, the researchers also discovered that brain damage done during pregnancy because of a vitamin c deficiency cannot be repaired even if the baby is given vitamin C after birth.
According to Professor Lykkesfeldt, certain groups of women are at higher risk for vitamin C deficiency:
“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.”
Thus, all pregnant women are recommended to take a vitamin c supplement during pregnancy. However, as Professor Lykkesfeldt adds, “if pregnant women eat a varied diet, do not smoke, and for instance take a multi-vitamin tablet daily during pregnancy, there is no reason to fear vitamin C deficiency.”
Will the research that links vitamin c deficiency during pregnancy to brain damage affect your decision to take a vitamin c supplement?