We’ve spoken about the importance of vitamin B12 for pregnant mothers before and new research conducted by the University of Warwick and George Eliot Hospital in the United Kingdom have reiterated this point by revealing that vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy may predispose children to metabolic problems such as type-2 diabetes.
To explain the possible association between vitamin B12 and metabolic disorders, the researchers analyzed nearly 100 samples of umbilical cord blood, adipose tissue and placenta tissue and found that babies born to mothers deficient of vitamin B12 have higher than normal levels of leptin, which puts them at an increased risk of developing resistance to this hormone.
Leptin, which is produced by the body’s fat cells, is the hormone that signals when the body is full from eating. Obesity can cause leptin levels to rise, causing them to remain at a much higher level.
What the research suggests is that pregnant mothers with a B12 deficiency can adversely program the leptin gene, changing the levels at which the hormone is produced while the fetus grows. These abnormal levels can lead to leptin resistance, overeating, and can increase the risk of insulin resistance.
Talking to Medscape Medical News Ponusammy Saravanan, PhD, FRCP, associate clinical professor at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom and senior author of the study said: “This is the first time that maternal B12 has been linked to leptin, a metabolic risk factor, which is either derived from the placenta or the fetus’s own fat cells.”
“We know that children born to under- or overnourished mothers are at an increased risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, and we also see that maternal B12 deficiency may affect fat metabolism and contribute to this risk. This is why we decided to investigate leptin, the fat-cell hormone.”
Saravanan believes that this study highlights the importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy because the nutritional environment provided by the mother can permanently program the baby’s health.