Add this to the countless reasons you need a healthful, balanced diet during pregnancy: New research suggests that a vitamin A deficiency in utero may set the stage for Alzheimer’s later in life.
In a study recently published in the journal Acta Neuropathological, researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Children’s Hospital of Chongqing Medical University in China studied the effects of vitamin A in mice, building upon previous research that links low levels of the vitamin with cognitive dysfunction.
The scientists deprived one group of mice of the vitamin while still in utero. Another group was deprived during infancy through an imbalanced diet. When tested for memory later in life, the mice who were severely deprived while in the womb tested remarkably lower than their counterparts who only received lower amounts of the vitamin through a restricted, postnatal diet.
“Our study clearly shows that marginal deficiency of vitamin A, even as early as in pregnancy, has [a] long-lasting effect that may facilitate Alzheimer’s disease in later life,” Dr. Weihong Song, co-author of the study, said in a statement to Medical News Today.
Furthermore, mice who were deficient in vitamin A also showed elevated levels of the amyloid beta protein, a key player in the advancement of Alzheimer’s.
Nearly 5 million people in the United States are effected by Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease that results in severe memory loss. The Alzheimer’s Association cites that this disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the US—and that every six seconds, another adult is diagnosed. All this to say that Alzheimer’s is certainly not something to brush aside.
But before moms-to-be go adding vitamin A supplements to their diets, Dr. Song has a word of caution. A proper prenatal vitamin and a balanced, healthful diet during pregnancy are the safest and surest ways to make certain your baby gets the vitamins he or she needs. In fact, excessive intake of vitamin A during pregnancy can result in harm to your fetus—and potential birth defects.
We suggest talking to your doctor or midwife about ways to ensure your baby receives all the right nutrients during pregnancy and beyond.