Women unable to quit smoking while pregnant should take vit C pills

Daily vitamin C pills could reduce damage done to unborn babies’ lungs by pregnant mothers who smoke

  • Researchers gave half of a group of pregnant women vitamin C pills and the other half placebo pills
  • The babies of mothers who took 500 mg of vitamin C had healthier airways at three months old 
  • Smoking can lead to preterm birth, low birth weight, birth defects such as cleft lip, and reduced lung capacity
  • Scientists say the primary goal of health professionals should remain helping mothers quit smoking  

Pregnant women who struggle to quit smoking should take vitamin C to better protect the lungs of their unborn child, a new study suggests.

Researchers say babies, whose mothers took 500mg of vitamin C daily, had healthier airways at three months old than those whose mothers did not.

The team, led by Oregon Health & Science University, says the nutrient found in citrus fruits could provide a safe and inexpensive intervention for pregnant women hooked on cigarettes.

However, they stress that helping mothers quit smoking should remain the primary goal of health professionals and public health officials.  

A new study has found that pregnant women who smoked, but took 500 mg of vitamin C daily, had babies with healthier airways at three months old than those whose mothers did not (file image)

It is well known that women who smoke while pregnant create several health problems for their children.

Smoking raises the risk of premature birth, vaginal bleeding and problems with the placenta. 

It also increases a baby’s risk of defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate or a low birth weight. 

Additionally, if women smoke while pregnant, it could damage unborn babies’ lungs at crucial points in their development – leading to reduced lung capacity in later life.

For the study, the team based their tests on forced expiratory flows (FEFs), which measures the speed at which air coming out of the lungs during the middle portion of a forced exhalation. 

Researchers say these tests are a good measure of function because they can detect airway obstruction.

The team looked at more than 250 pregnant smokers who began the study between 13 and 23 weeks into their term.

All of the women received counseling on quitting smoking throughout the course of the study, with about one in 10 doing so.

Half of the women received a vitamin C pill and the other half received a placebo pill.    


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The babies of the women who took vitamin C pills did better on FEFs than the babies of those who took placebo pills. 

‘Smoking during pregnancy reflects the highly addictive nature of nicotine that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations,’ said lead author Dr Cindy McEvoy, a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University. 

‘Finding a way to help infants exposed to smoking and nicotine in the womb recognizes the unique dangers posed by a highly advertised, addictive product and the lifetime effects on offspring who did not choose to be exposed.’ 

Dr McEvoy says the study supports the hypothesis that cigarette smoking reduces the amount of vitamin C available in the body.

By taking a supplement, mothers can protect their cells from the damage caused by free radicals.  

In a previous study led by Dr McEvoy, her team found the babies of mothers born to smokers had better lung function 72 hours birth when their mothers took 500 mg of vitamin C compared to the same dose of a placebo. 

However, that study did not use FEFs to measure lung function, which is what doctors use to diagnose lung disease in adults and older children. 

The infants in this study will continued to be monitored for lung function and to have respiratory outcomes analyzed.

For future studies, the researchers want to see if pregnant women taking vitamin C supplements earlier in pregnancy could provide greater outcomes.  

Dr McEvoy says that although vitamin C may be ‘a safe and inexpensive intervention’, the primary goal should be helping mother quit smoking.  

‘Although vitamin C supplementation may protect to some extent the lungs of babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy, those children will still be at greater risk for obesity, behavioral disorders and other serious health issues,’ she said.

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Infants born to obese mothers risk developing liver disease, obesity

Infant gut microbes altered by their mother’s obesity can cause inflammation and other major changes within the baby, increasing the risk of obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease later in life, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The study was published Oct. 26 in the journal Nature Communications.

“Alteration of the gut microbiome early in life may precede development of obesity instead of being caused by established obesity,” said the study’s lead author Taylor Soderborg, an MD/Ph.D. candidate in the Integrative Physiology Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “This is the first study to show a causative role of these microbes in priming development of obesity.”

Childhood obesity is a world-wide epidemic with recent predictions saying that 57 percent of today’s children will be obese by age 35. That parallels the rate of maternal obesity which is nearly 40 percent. Obesity increases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which impacts at least 30 percent of obese children. NAFLD can lead to liver failure, requiring a transplant.

In this study, researchers looked at two-week old infants born to normal weight mothers and obese mothers. They took stool samples from infants from both groups and colonized them inside germ-free mice.

They discovered that the gut microbes from babies born to obese mothers caused metabolic and inflammatory changes to the liver and bone marrow cells of the mice. Then, when fed a Western-style high fat diet, these mice were predisposed to more rapid weight gain and development of fattier livers.

“This is the first experimental evidence in support of the hypothesis that changes in the gut microbiome in infants born to obese mothers directly initiate these disease pathways,” Soderborg said.

For the study’s senior author, Jed Friedman, Ph.D., MS, professor of pediatrics and neonatology at the CU School of Medicine, the findings offer potential hope for understanding how early microbes might go awry in children born to obese mothers.

“About 35 percent of these kids have NAFLD and there is no known therapy for it,” he said. “But if we can alter the microbiome we can change the course of NAFLD.”

Friedman said the study shows that the microbiome can cause the disease rather than simply be associated with it. Newborns of obese mothers, he said, could be screened for potential changes in their gut that put them at risk for NAFLD.

“If we could modify the first two weeks of the infant microbiome, we could reduce the risk of this disease,” said Friedman.

That could be done through giving the infant probiotics or other supplements.

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