Ask the doctor
A study in Australia has found evidence vitamin B3 could help prevent harmful deficiencies of a key growth molecule in embryos.
Q: I’ve had a miscarriage and am trying to get pregnant again. Is it true that getting more vitamin B3 in my diet may help reduce the chance of another miscarriage?
A: Professor Sally Dunwoodie, of the Victor Chang Institute in Sydney, led a long-term study using mice to investigate the effect of vitamin B3 on developing embryos.
Before vitamin B3 was introduced into the mother’s diet, embryos were either lost through miscarriage or the offspring were born with a range of severe birth defects. After the dietary change, both the miscarriages and birth defects were completely prevented, with all offspring born healthy.
Professor Dunwoodie says: “Under no circumstances do we want to offer false hope to families affected by miscarriage or birth defects but our research provides evidence that vitamin B3 has the potential to prevent these terrible outcomes, at least in mice.
“However, we are encouraging women to follow the current recommended dose of vitamin B3 (18mg per day) when preparing for pregnancy.
“Our landmark research found that a deficiency in a vital molecule known as NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) can prevent a baby’s organs from developing correctly in the womb in some cases. Vitamin B3 is required to make NAD and is typically found in meats and green vegetables and products like Marmite.
“NAD is one of the most important molecules in all living cells. Its synthesis is essential for energy production, DNA repair and cell communication. Environmental and genetic factors can disrupt its production, which causes a NAD deficiency. We found this deficiency can be particularly harmful during a pregnancy as it can cripple an embryo when it’s forming.
“After 12 years of research, our team has also discovered that this deficiency can potentially be cured in mice, and miscarriages and birth defects prevented in their offspring, by administering the common dietary supplement, vitamin B3.
“It’s not known how many cases of miscarriage and birth defects are caused by low levels of NAD. It’s also not yet known what dose of vitamin B3 will prevent miscarriage and birth defects.”