A new study, conducted by researchers at Copenhagen University and published in Plos one, specified that Vitamin C deficiency in pregnant women can result in serious brain damage in the developing fetus.
Professor Jens Lykkesfeldt, the lead scientist in the study, said, “Even marginal vitamin C deficiency in the mother stunts the fetal hippocampus, the important memory center, by 10-15 percent, preventing the brain from optimal development.”
Professor Lykkesfeldt continued:
“We used to think that the mother could protect the baby. Ordinarily there is 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.”
Guinea pigs were used as the animal model of choice for the purpose of this study and were deprived of vitamin c during their pregnancy. When the vitamin C deficient guinea pig pups were born, the researchers placed them in two separate groups. One of the groups was given vitamin C supplements, and the other group did not receive supplements. The researchers determined that after two month there was no improvement in the guinea pigs that were given the supplements.
Now the focus of research is to determine at what point in the pregnancy vitamin C deficiency affects the development of fetal brains. Early finding specify that the damage is done very early in the pregnancy, as the fetuses were analyzed during the second and third trimesters.
Professor Lykkesfeldt correlated the guinea pigs study to the potential impact on human beings:
“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.”
He noted that if women who are pregnant eat a diet high in variety, refrain from smoking, and take daily vitamins they should not be at risk for vitamin C deficiency.
“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,” explained Jens Lykkesfeldt