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Lack of vitamin C hampers brain function in babies

Copenhagen research reveals link between vitamin deficiency in pregnancy and learning disabilities

Vitamin C deficiency means fewer neurons and a decrease in spatial memory, according to new research by Jens Lykkesfeldt from the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Life Sciences (Life). This is according to Life’s website.

The study, which is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that guinea pigs lacking in vitamin C have 30 per cent less hippocampal neurons and significantly worse spatial memory than their counterparts.

Humans and guinea pigs produce no vitamin C

Human beings, like guinea pigs, are among the few mammals that cannot produce vitamin C themselves, and are therefore dependent on a dietary intake.

This leads Lykkesfeldt to speculate that vitamin C deficiency in pregnant and breast-feeding women may also lead to impaired development in foetuses and new-born babies.

In some areas in the world, vitamin C deficiency is widespread; studies carried out in Brazil and Mexico have shown that 30 to 40 per cent of all pregnant women lack vitamin C, and that their foetuses and new-born babies also lack this vitamin.

Easy to prevent

It is not yet known to what extent new-born babies in Denmark or the Western World lack vitamin C. A conservative estimate puts the occurrence at 5 to 10 per cent based on studies among adults.

The researchers are currently studying how early in pregnancy vitamin C deficiency affects the development of guinea pigs, and whether the damage may be reversed after birth.

»We may be witnessing that children get learning disabilities because they have not gotten enough vitamin C in their early life. It would be so easy to prevent this deficiency by giving a vitamin supplement to high-risk pregnant women and new mothers«, says Jens Lykkesfeldt.