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

Wow, learn new info about this Report
As others have commented, B12 deficiency can happen from not eating enough of it (which can happen even with those of us who do eat meat - poultry meat is very low in B12 (you need the organs), pork is very low in B12, you need a lot more beef than most of us have regularly, and we don't get enough of the fatty fish that is very high in B12). It can also happen from not being well absorbed, which can be caused by a variety of different illnesses (IBS, autoimmune, cancer, coeliac, etc.) AND simply by aging. Older people have less ability to absorb B12, so should be tested annually to see if supplementation is required. Some of the symptoms of B12 deficiency are the same as symptoms for dementia, so it is important to test for possible physical reasons first. Report
Serious stuff this. There is another neural tube defect called anencephaly. I gave birth to a child with anencephaly at 7 months gestation. The year was 1980, just before science discovered that folic acid deficiency could cause fetal neural tube defects. Now B-12 is in the mix as well! Neural tube defects occur approximately 30 days following conception, before many mothers learn that they are pregnant. So, please, if you’re trying to conceive, make sure you and your partner’s nutrition are exemplary. It matters. Anencephalic babies cannot live outside the womb. It was a beautiful baby boy who never saw the light of the sun. Take care everyone! Report
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


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.