Vitamin could help under-nourished mothers have healthier babies

Providing vitamin supplements to poorly nourished women during pregnancy may reduce the risk of them giving birth to underweight babies, a study has shown.

A trial of 400 women in Hackney, east London, found the number of "small-for-gestational age" babies was reduced among those who took a multi-vitamin supplement compared with those given a placebo.

The findings suggest diet in pregnancy may affect the health of babies later in life. Babies who are underweight at birth have a higher incidence of heart and other problems in adulthood.

The women in the study, conducted by the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University and published in the Journal of Nutrition, had higher levels of vitamin and mineral deficiency than the general population, indicative of a poor diet.

More than two thirds (72 per cent) had low levels of vitamin D in their blood, 13 per cent were anaemic (low levels of iron) and 12 per cent were deficient in thiamin. Lead researcher Dr Louise Brough said although the study was small, its findings were "statistically significant and justify a larger study". Eight of the 88 babies (9 per cent) born to mothers using the supplements were underweight compared to 13 of the 61 women (20 per cent) in the placebo group.

Professor Michael Crawford, the study's co-author and director of the Institute, said the study "blows out of the water the idea that all women in the UK are adequately nourished".

Attempts to encourage better diets as a way of improving the nutritional status of mothers in socially deprived areas were often hampered by lack of money, differing cultures and hectic lifestyles, the researchers said.

Consultant obstetrician Pat O'Brien, of University College London, said: "Small babies are more likely to have breathing problems, develop jaundice and [have] difficulties with temperature control in the short-term but even more problems in the long-term.

"If a baby is short of nutrients in the womb, then they are more likely later in life to suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. What happens to a baby in the womb can almost programme the baby for life."

Mr O'Brien said it was important to take specially tailored multi-vitamins during pregnancy. "You have to be cautious about taking random vitamins in pregnancy, they may cause harm," he added. Previous research suggested vitamins A, C and E might make babies smaller. He added that it would be much cheaper to give out supplements than look after small babies in intensive care.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific