Australian researchers in Sydney have published work in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirming a link between niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency and an increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
We have known for a long time that dietary supplementation can reduce risks of certain problems in pregnancy. A well known example is folate, which is known to reduce the risk of having a baby with a spinal cord defect like spina bifida.
To put the problem in perspective, one in four pregnant women will suffer a miscarriage and worldwide, nearly 8 million babies are born with a serious birth defect each year.
At this point, lead researcher Professor Dunwoodle has described that despite taking vitamin supplements, many pregnant women are low in vitamin B3 in the first trimester. The timing is important as most major organ systems are formed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
In the developing fetus, a low B3 level leads to a deficiency in NAD or Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide, a critical molecule in living cells. NAD synthesis is needed for cells energy production, communication and DNA repair.
Vitamin B3 is found in meat, vegetables and yes, in vegemite. If you are planning a pregnancy, you might want to add a jar to your shopping list.