Vitamin B12 in pregnancy could lead to quieter babies: Study

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin b12, Vitamin b12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 in pregnancy could lead to quieter babies: Study
Women who eat steak, rich in vitamin B-12, during the first three months of their pregnancy are up to eight times more likely to have babies who cry less, according to a new study published in the journal Early Human Development.

Public Health Service researchers in the Netherlands measured the amount of B12 in the blood of nearly 3,000 pregnant women at their first pre-natal appointment at three months. They then measured how often babies cried after birth and for how long.

The babies of mothers whose blood contained the least amount of B12 at the three-month test were up to eight times more likely to cry for prolonged periods than those with the highest levels. On average, five per cent of mothers with low blood levels of B12 gave birth to babies who cried a lot while only about one per cent of women with the most B12 reported that their baby cried excessively.

Nutritional origin

This study provides first evidence for an early nutritional origin in infant crying behavior​,” wrote the researchers. “The results suggest infants born to women with a low B12 status during pregnancy are at a higher risk for excessive crying behavior in their first months of life."

The researchers defined excessive crying as an average of three hours a day in the past week.

Excessive crying may be due to mothers whose blood was low vitamin B12 giving birth to babies who do not have a fully developed nervous system, suggest the researchers.

The sleep hormone melatonin may not be released fully causing longer crying episodes than exhibited by babies whose mothers had high levels of B12.

Also a lack of B12 may reduce the brain’s production of myelin, which protects nerve cells, leading to more sleeplessness.

Brain and nervous system

Occurring naturally in red meat, fish and dairy products, vitamin B12 is known to help the development of the brain and nervous system in unborn children. In later life, the vitamin also helps prevent dementia, heart disease and fertility problems.

Pregnant women are advised to avoid liver, raw eggs, soft cheese and shellfish which all contain vitamin B12.

Vegetarians and vegans can be particularly vulnerable to vitamin B12 deficiency; a condition that leads to anaemia, tiredness, weight loss and constipation.

The researchers found no link between folate, another nutrient essential for brain development and crying.

Source: Early Human Development​ journal

Title: Maternal vitamin B-12 and folate status during pregnancy and excessive infant crying

Authors:​Geertje Goedhart, Marcel van der Wal, Manon van Ellsden and Gouke Bonsel.

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3 comments

Absorption depends on many factors

Posted by Dr Anna Sen,

Absorption of B12 depends on many factors and occurs in various places in the GI tract, so this is a tough one to meaningfully research. I ate a diet very rich in red meat and dairy, and yet I had a baby that cried continually for 4 months. I needed to use antacids a lot during pregnancy, which may have had an impact on absorption of B12. Equally, genetic factors may play a part, so even with a diet high in B12, an individual could be low in this vitamin.

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Steak? Seriously?

Posted by Sgt. Joe Friday,

How bizarre - and biased! - that the lead sentence of this article stresses steak as the pivotal positive diet ingredient during pregnancy, when there is nothing steak-specific about vitamin B-12. Vitamin B12 is found in eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products, and vegetarians can easily add it to their diet via supplements.

Give me the facts about nutrition. I'll decide on the source myself, thank you.

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Vegetarian source of Vitamin B12

Posted by Angela Saunders,

Vegetarians don't have to eat a steak to get their Vitamin B12. But vegetarians, particularly vegans, do need to include B12 fortified foods in their meals, such as soy milk, soy products to ensure they are getting adequate amounts of B12 to meet daily needs. The B12 from these fortified foods is well absorbed, and can provides adequate amounts of this necessary vitamin. A Vitamin B12 tablet is also a suitable way to ensure intake is adequate. This is particularly important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As long as the diet includes Vitamin B12, the source is not important. Interestingly, a US study comparing Vitamin B12 fortified foods concluded that the vitamin B12 added to foods may be better absorbed than that naturally found in foods such as in meat (Tucker, Rich et al 2000). Cyanocobalamin, or crystaline B12 used in fortified foods, is well absorbed.

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