Vitamin B-12 May Prevent Birth Defects

Women of childbearing age (especially those who are pregnant or trying to conceive) are advised to eat 400 mg of folic acid (folate) daily to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, from occurring in their babies. New research, reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, shows that vitamin B-12 may also play a role.

Researchers took blood samples and measured B-12 levels of two groups of women: those who gave birth to children with spina bifida, and those who gave birth to otherwise healthy children. They also measured the B-12 levels in the blood of both groups of children.

Mothers of children with spina bifida had blood levels of vitamin B-12 that were 21 percent lower than mothers of healthy children. Mothers with the lowest B-12 levels were three times more likely to give birth to a child with spina bifida.

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Adult males and females need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 daily. The best sources of vitamin B-12 include animal products, such as organ meats, beef, pork, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy foods. Therefore, vitamin B-12 intake is mostly a concern for vegetarians and vegans who omit these foods and follow plant-based diets. Some foods are fortified with vitamin B-12 and are fair sources of the nutrient. These include: nutritional yeast (100% RDA in 2 teaspoons), fortified cereals (usually 100% RDA per serving), non-dairy alternatives like soy milk (content varies), and vegetarian meat alternatives (content varies). Vegetarians and vegans can also meet their daily need for B-12 by taking a vitamin supplement.
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Member Comments

Interesting Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Wow. What good info. Report
thanks for the info Report
Good article. Report
Great article. Report
Good article. I'm going to have to get tested for my nutrient levels before we start trying to get pregnant. I don't eat meat, dairy or eggs so I take a tsp of spirulina a couple times a day to get my B12. Report
great article Report
Aside from the reasons stated in the article, your B12 levels can also be affected by various health conditions, medications, etc. Having lived with two or three different reasons for B12 issues for several years now, it's really important to bug your doctor about these things and ask for testing. I test normal in all my blood tests for anemia, etc, but STILL have persistent issues related to less than optimal B vitamin levels. Report
I was diagnoses with B12 deficiency about a year ago. I knew something was wrong for a long time. The doctor tested for Iron deficiency (which I have but was managing with supplements), thyroid issues, diabetes---finall
y figured out it was a low B12. It was amazing the difference it made once I started getting weekly shots, within 2 months my muscles stopped aching, the tingling in my arms and hands had subsided. I am still on the low side and I may always be. Report
This is scary. I was recently diagnosed with a B-12 deficiency, in the form of "pernicious aneamia", which means that it's a problem with absorption. So no matter how much I eat of the stuff it won't go in! I'm on a life time course of injections once every 3 months, not too scary and apart from that it doesn't have any impact. But this article shows that there are bigger impacts.

It was only by a chance test that the Dr found my deficiency, it can be years before any symptoms present. If you are thinking of getting pregnant, I would ask that you get your Dr to check. Report
I was diagnosed a year ago with having Vitamin B12 deficiency. While I was pregnant, they checked my levels and they were normal so I was told I could stop taking the supplements. A few weeks later, I miscarried. My daughter had an extra set of chromosomes. Could this be from not having enough B12 while I was pregnant? Report
Interesting article. I wonder if the results have to do with the relationship between B-12 and folic acid/folate (if women who had lower levels of B-12 also had lower levels of folic acid). Another good reason to eat healthily! Report


About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.