Vitamin C deficiency impairs early brain development

Sep 02, 2009
Guinea pigs - like humans - are dependent on getting sufficient vitamin C through their diet. Studies show that new-born guinea pigs subjected to vitamin C deficiency have a markedly worse memory than guinea pigs given enough vitamin C. Maybe this also applies to human beings?

(PhysOrg.com) -- Faculty of Life Sciences at University of Copenhagen shows that vitamin C deficiency may impair the mental development of new-born babies.

In the latest issue of the well-known scientific journal the , a group of researchers headed by professor Jens Lykkesfeldt shows that subjected to moderate vitamin C deficiency have 30 per cent less hippocampal neurones and markedly worse spatial memory than guinea pigs given a normal diet. Like guinea pigs, human beings are dependent on getting vitamin C through their diet, and Jens Lykkesfeldt therefore speculate that vitamin C deficiency in pregnant and breast-feeding women may also lead to impaired development in foetuses and new-born babies.

The brain retains vitamin C

Several factors indicate that the neonatal , in contrast to other tissue, is particularly vulnerable to even a slight lowering of the vitamin C level. The highest concentration of vitamin C is found in the neurons of the brain and in case of a low intake of vitamin C, the remaining vitamin is retained in the brain to secure this organ. The vitamin thus seems to be quite important to brain activity. Tests have shown that mouse foetuses that were not able to transport vitamin C develop severe . Brain damage which resembles the ones found in premature babies and which are linked to learning and cognitive disabilities later in life.

Widespread vitamin C deficiency

In some areas in the world, vitamin C deficiency is very common - population studies in Brazil and Mexico have shown that 30 to 40 per cent of the pregnant women have too low levels of vitamin C, and the low level is also found in their foetuses and new-born babies. It is not yet known to what extent new-born babies in Denmark or the Western World suffer from vitamin C deficiency but a conservative estimate would be 5 to 10 per cent based on the occurrence among adults.

"We may thus be witnessing that children get learning disabilities because they have not gotten enough vitamin C in their early life. This is unbearable when 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 whose research group is currently studying how early in pregnancy deficiency affects the embryonic development of guinea pigs and whether the damage may be reversed after birth.

More information: www.ajcn.org/cgi/rapidpdf/ajcn.2009.27954v1

Source: University of Copenhagen

Explore further: Changing diagnosis codes will challenge emergency medicine

Related Stories

Vitamin B12 may protect the brain in old age

Sep 08, 2008

Vitamin B12, a nutrient found in meat, fish and milk, may protect against brain volume loss in older people, according to a study published in the September 9, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academ ...

Vitamin D tied to muscle power in adolescent girls

Feb 03, 2009

Vitamin D is significantly associated with muscle power and force in adolescent girls, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

'Let the sunshine in' to protect your heart this winter

Nov 17, 2008

The temperature might not be the only thing plummeting this winter. Many people also will experience a decrease in their vitamin D levels, which can play a role in heart disease, according to a new review article in Circulation.

Recommended for you

Clinical trial reduces stress of cancer caregivers

12 hours ago

Stem cell transplant is essential in the care of many blood cancers, but leaves patients requiring in-home care for months after. Frequently the role of caregiver falls to family or other committed members ...

Video: Debunking three common food myths

13 hours ago

You might have heard that microwaving your food is dangerous. Maybe your health nut friend told you that eating frozen veggies is less healthful than eating fresh ones. Is a glass of red wine really good ...

Tackling child abuse in Africa with research and fun

16 hours ago

In one of South Africa's poorest areas, an imaginative new parenting programme is tackling the physical and emotional abuse of children. Oxford University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, travelled ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.