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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Vitamin B12, First 1000 Days, and Lifelong Opportunities

By Michael McBurney

Cells require a supply of methyl donors (vitamin B12, folate, methionine and choline) to function normally. Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common among vegans, the elderly, and people using medications to prevent heartburn. In vegans, the risk is increased because they don’t consume animal products which are rich sources of B12. In the other two examples, the primary cause is insufficient gastric pepsin and acid production required for its absorption from the gut.

In a new review, Rush and colleagues bring together human and animal studies to examine the role of maternal vitamin B12 on fetal growth and infant development. The first 1000 days of life, from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until her child’s 2nd birthday, is a unique window of opportunity. Nutrition during this period has a lifelong impact.

Although the liver stores vitamin B12 and it takes years not months to become deficient, insufficient maternal vitamin B12 status may cause epigenetic changes (fetal programming concept) that can increase a child’s risk of non-communicable diseases, e.g. diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Mother’s dietary habits affect a child’s entire life.

Maternal vitamin B12 status during pregnancy is important. All  vitamins are important during the first 2 years of a child’s life. Don’t gamble with your child’s health, like these 4 families did. If pregnant, consult with a health professional who can help assess your diet. Use supplements as recommended to fill nutrient gaps.

Main Citation

Rush EC, Katre P, Yajnik CS. Vitamin B12: one carbon metabolism, fetal growth and programming for chronic disease. 2013 Eur J Clin Nutr doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.232

Other Citation

Gammon CS, von Hurst PR, Coad J, Kruger R, Stonehouse W. Vegetarianism, vitamin B12 status, and insulin resistance in a group of predominantly overweight/obese South Asian women.  2011 Nutr. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2011.05.006