Vitamin B may counter pesticides

6 January 2015

A new study has suggested that women with good levels of vitamin B in their body have greater fertility, compared to those that don't. The research conducted by a team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that this was apparent even when high levels of a common pesticide were found.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that B vitamins may be able to protect against the damaging effect of DDT - a pesticide known to kill mosquitoes in regions where malaria is a top health concern.

Although it has been banned in many countries in recent years, because of its damaging effects, including in China where the research was conducted. However, the impact of the pesticide can linger for a number of decades, which is supported by the research as it was banned in the region in 1984.

Study leader Xiaobin Wang, the Zanvyl Krieger professor and director of the Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said previous work by the team has shown that high levels of DDT in the body can increase the risk of early miscarriage.

Dr Wang said: "This study tells us that improved nutrition may modify the toxic effects of DDT, by better preparing the body to cope with environmental toxins and stressors. We have shown that women with high levels of DDT who also had high levels of B vitamins had a better chance of getting and staying pregnant than those were deficient in those vitamins."

For the study, Dr Wang and her colleagues monitored a group of female Chinese textile workers who were trying to get pregnant. They were analysed every day for up to a year, with their urine being tested to measure hCG levels, which signals conception. 

By doing this, the team were able to determine whether or not any of the women became pregnant before they might normally become aware due to disruption to their menstrual cycle. It also allowed the researchers to determine whether women had an early pregnancy loss (miscarried before six weeks of pregnancy). DDT and DDE (major degraded product of DDT) and B vitamin levels were measured in the women before conception.

Of the 291 women involved in the study, 385 became pregnant but just under a third (31 per cent) were lost before six weeks. Those who had high DDT levels and sufficient levels of vitamin B had a 42 per cent higher chance of early miscarriage than women with lower DDT levels. However, women who had high DDT levels, along with vitamin B deficiencies, were twice as likely to suffer a miscarriage before six weeks. 

The researchers looked at three types of B vitamins - B-6, B-12 and folic acid - and determined that the risk to a pregnancy was higher with B-12 and folic acid deficiencies and with deficiencies in more than one type of B vitamins.

They also found that those with high DDT and low B vitamin levels took nearly twice as long to conceive in the first place.

Posted by ​Phillip Briggs 


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