March 20/London/Mail on Sunday -- Mothers-to-be who boost their intake of a vitamin found in steak during the first three months of pregnancy are up to eight times more likely to have babies who cry less, researchers suggest.
The B12 vitamin occurs naturally in red meat, fish and dairy products and is already known to help the development of the brain and nervous system in unborn children. It also helps prevent dementia, heart disease and even fertility problems later in life.
Now, the latest findings by researchers suggest pregnant women who consume only low levels of B12 may have babies whose nervous systems have not fully developed. They say it means a hormone in the brain which lulls babies to sleep may not be released properly, causing infants to cry for longer periods of the day.
The study, published in the journal Early Human Developmen, involved nearly 3,000 pregnant women. Each had a blood test during their first pre-natal appointment at three months, which measured the amount of B12 in their blood. Once their babies were born, they recorded how often they cried and for how long.
The researchers found that those women whose test results showed they had the least B12 were up to eight times more likely to give birth to a child who cried for prolonged periods than those who had the most.
On average, 5% of mothers lacking B12 had a distressed baby, while just over 1% of women with the most B12 reported their baby cried excessively. The researchers, from the Public Health Service in the Netherlands, concluded, "This study provides first evidence for an early nutritional origin in infant crying behavior. 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 suggest that a lack of B12 may affect how much of a supportive tissue known as myelin, which surrounds and protects the nerve cells, is produced in the brain. Less myelin could cause irritability, they suggest.
They also say B12 could affect sleep cycles because low levels prevent the release of the body's sleep hormone, Melatonin.
Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, said, "This is an interesting relationship and one which needs to be looked at further."
From the March 21, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News
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