The lack of proper Vitamin C levels in the diet during pregnancy could be linked to impaired brain development of the fetus, according to a new study.
The lack of proper Vitamin C levels in the diet could be linked to impaired brain development of the fetus, according to a new study. The study involved guinea pigs and when the pigs were given a diet that was moderately deficient in Vitamin C, marked effects on brain development occurred.
The guinea pigs presented with reduced spatial memory and 30% fewer hippocampal neurons. The guinea pigs given a diet with correct amounts of Vitamin C, showed no impaired brain development. Guinea pigs, much like humans, are dependent on their diet for Vitamin C. Humans have the ability to supplement their natural diets with Vitamin C supplementation, however, unlike the guinea pig.
The brain tissue is thought to be so susceptible to reduced Vitamin C levels because it stores Vitamin C. Vitamin C can be found in the highest levels in the brain neurons of the fetus. Even in cases where Vitamin C levels are lowered, the brain holds on to all of the vitamin it can in order to have a sufficient amount for brain development.
In studies on mice, the inability to utilize the stored Vitamin C resulted in brain damage that mirrored the same damage shown in premature babies. The effects can include learning disabilities and cognitive disabilities.
Countries like Mexico and Brazil have found 30 to 40% of pregnant women consume a diet deficient in Vitamin C. Researchers believe this deficiency could be related to the rise in learning disorders. Among the westernized countries, up to 10% of all pregnant mothers could be Vitamin C deficient.
Doctors suggest pregnant women take prenatal vitamins during their pregnancy and while breastfeeding. An additional Vitamin C supplement may be needed to ensure proper Vitamin C levels in the diet and in breast milk passed to baby.
Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - September 2009