Vitamin B3 and miscarriage
This week, media outlets widely reported findings of an Australian study linking vitamin B3 to birth defects and miscarriages. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was undertaken by an Australian research team headed by Professor Sally Dunwoodie. The study findings have even been compared to the discovery of the link between folate and neural tubes defects such as spina bifida.
Unfortunately, though perhaps not surprisingly, media enthusiasm has allowed a good headline to get in the way of responsible journalism. While the discovery of an association between vitamin B3 and birth defects (in mice) is interesting, important, and creates many questions for further research, it is a far, far cry from "preventing millions of women from suffering miscarriage".
In a nutshell, the researchers of this study:
Importantly (and curiously left out by the media):
The assumption is that something occurring naturally can’t be bad, BUT the entire HRT fiasco came from initial studies suggesting all women should take oestrogen because it prevents heart disease, and women with early menopause have more heart disease, so extra oestrogen must be good. But women with extra oestrogen just turned out to have more strokes, more clots (and… MORE heart disease!) – the painful lesson from the HRT trials is that jumping in early, on the first promise of something useful, is not without risk.
After much pain, a few law suits, and many more trials, we eventually settled on “HRT benefits may outweigh risks, in some women, sometimes, maybe”.
The unfortunate but inevitable consequence of over-enthusiastic journalism that reports gross extrapolations of animal studies is that women are offered premature - and currently unfounded - hope of a treatment that is not only unproven, but also untested. With headlines like these, the only winners are manufacturers of Vitamin B3 supplements.
Nevertheless, let's look forward to the follow-up study findings from this Australian team of researchers!Vitamin B3 and miscarriage
David is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and undertook his specialist training in Queensland. He is highly skilled in the management of complex and high-risk pregnancies, and has special training in minimally-invasive surgery, endometriosis, pelvic floor and incontinence surgery. David has completed a Master of Reproductive Medicine and is skilled in the assessment and management of fertility problems, and can offer the full range of assisted reproductive treatments. He is a Senior Lecturer with The University of Queensland Medical School, and has published both medical journal and textbook contributions.
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