We all know how Vegemite puts a rose in every cheek. But incredible new research reveals the humble Aussie sandwich spread actually holds the key to stopping thousands of miscarriages and birth defects every year.
The Australian scientific breakthrough is being hailed as the most important discovery in pregnancy health since the link was made between folic acid and spina bifida in babies. It is expected to change the way pregnant women are treated right around the globe.
Scientists from the Victor Chang Institute in Sydney revealed their world-first discovery this week. Professor Sally Dunwoodie says the team has identified a major cause of miscarriages as well as heart, spinal, kidney and cleft palate problems in newborn babies.
“The ramifications are likely to be huge. This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly,” says Professor Dunwoodie.
A cure for miscarriage and birth defects
Every year 7.9 million babies worldwide are born with a birth defect and one in four pregnant women suffer a miscarriage in Australia. In most cases, the cause remains a mystery. Not any more. The landmark Australian study found that a deficiency in a vital molecule, known as NAD, stops a baby’s organs from developing properly in the womb.
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is one of the most important molecules in all living cells. NAD synthesis is essential for energy production, DNA repair and cell communication. Environmental and genetic factors can disrupt its production, which causes a NAD deficiency.
The world first research shows this deficiency in pregnancy actually cripples an embryo as it is forming. But the scientists found that upping a pregnant woman’s intake of B3 vitamins, found in Vegemite as well as leafy greens, actually cures the deficiency, preventing miscarriage and many birth defects,
“Now, after 12 years of research, our team has also discovered that this deficiency can be cured and miscarriages and birth defects prevented by taking a common vitamin,” Professor Dunwoodie reveals.
A double breakthrough for pregnant women
Victor Chang Executive Director, Professor Robert Graham, says the implications will change the face of prenatal pregnancy care.
“Just like we now use folate to prevent spina bifida, Professor Dunwoodie’s research suggests that it is probably best for women to start taking vitamin B3 very early on, even before they become pregnant. This will change the way pregnant women are cared for around the world,” says Professor Graham.
“We believe that this breakthrough will be one of our country’s greatest medical discoveries. It’s extremely rare to discover the problem and provide a preventive solution at the same time. It’s actually a double breakthrough.”
Most pregnancy vitamins contain niacin but Prof Graham says a recent study found that at least a third of pregnant women have low levels of vitamin B3 in their first trimester – a critical time in foetal organ development – despite taking vitamin supplements By the third trimester, 60 per cent of pregnant women had low vitamin B3 levels, suggesting that pregnant women need more vitamin B3 than is available in most vitamin supplements.
Eat more Vegemite
When scientists at the Victor Chang Institute investigated the effect of vitamin B3 on developing embryos, the results were amazing. They found that 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. But introducing B3 vitamins prevented both the miscarriages and birth defects and all offspring were born perfectly healthy.
The findings were published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, considered the most prestigious clinical research publication in the world.
Have you experienced miscarriage? Read our previous article about the secret truth about pregnancy loss, where mums open up about their experiences of miscarriage.