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Vitamin B3 and your pregnancy

Saturday, September 02, 2017
The nutritional news wires were on fire recently with the release of a large study about pregnancy and vitamin B3. It’s been touted as the biggest news since the discovery of folate’s importance. 

There’s no doubt it was a big study. The paper was authored by 33 different scientists, and funding came from many government and non-government organisations. The paper was published by a prestigious journal where papers are peer-reviewed. So it ticks many of the boxes flagging “this is a valid study”.

The researchers located families with particular genetic abnormalities, analysed their genes, and developed a hypothesis (theory) about the deficiency of a certain enzyme. They figured that a deficiency was disrupting a biochemical pathway and causing cells to mutate. The scientists aimed to find out more about how mutated genes could create serious lifetime health problems for a baby. Off to the laboratory they went.

Assessing how biochemical pathways work is rather like watching water flow along a river. Deficiencies of certain enzymes can hold up the flow of the process, creating something akin to a logjam. Due to the backup biochemical changes that should happen, don’t. Provide the right raw materials, though (in this case vitamin B3) and the enzyme can work, the biochemical log jam clears, and cellular processes resume flowing smoothly. 

Having identified which genes weren’t working, the scientists then created mice with these genetic defects. To their surprise, the offspring of these mice were normal. Back to the test tubes they went, and found the cause of the genetic problem was actually a deficiency of NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). NAD can be produced through tryptophan in food, or the vitamin niacin (B3). Insufficient B3 meant inadequate NAD leading to genetic defects.

The scientists noted that a deficiency of B3 can often occur during pregnancy. In addition, production of that important NAD is affected if you are obese, have type II diabetes, or if your body is inflamed. Keep in mind that this was an extremely focused study, aiming to pinpoint the source of a defective gene. The study didn’t consider any other factors that contribute to a successful pregnancy.

It could be tempting to head to the shops for vitamin B3; but keep in mind it’s not the only vitamin you need in pregnancy, and a good diet is also important. But the study does highlight how useful genetic testing can be in determining the nutritional support you need.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'The Right Nutrition In Pregnancy', here

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