Study discovers effects of vitamin A deficiency in the womb
Many older people suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have now found that Alzheimer's can theoretically begin in the womb. This happens when the mothers do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. Even a slight deficiency in vitamin A increases the production of a protein, according to the scientists, which kills the brain cells in the course of Alzheimer's disease.
The University of British Columbia researchers found that if mothers didn't eat enough fruits and vegetables, it could have a negative impact on our children. This deficiency increases the risk of children later developing Alzheimer's. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Acta Neuropathologica".
Which foods contain a lot of vitamin A?
Vitamin A is often found in orange and yellow fruits and in vegetables such as carrots, apricots and yellow peppers. The vitamin is also present in all green leafy vegetables. It's also available in the form of fat in some animal foods, including liver, eggs, and various dairy products, the researchers say.
Lack of vitamin A leads to an increased risk of dementia in mice
If babies do not receive enough vitamin A in the womb or after birth, this increases the risk of developing dementia later in life. The finding is based on the effect of vitamin A deprivation (deficiency) in fetal and newborn mice, the authors of the study explain. If these mice later received enough vitamin A from vitamin supplements, they did a little better in the cognitive tests compared to mice without vitamin intake. But the deficit remained recognizable.
Vitamin A deficiency in pregnancy is detrimental to brain development
Our study clearly shows that the marginal lack of vitamin A has adverse effects on brain development even during pregnancy. This deficiency can later lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer's, explains the author Dr. Weihong Song from the University of British Columbia.
Lack of vitamin A increases production of amyloid beta protein
A lack of vitamin A increases the production of so-called amyloid beta. This protein kills the brain cells in Alzheimer's. The current study builds on older studies that have linked low vitamin A levels to cognitive impairments, the authors say.
Effects of vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy are not reversible
If unborn mice were deprived of vitamin A, they did worse in the learning and memory tests than adult animals. The effects of the vitamin A deficiency in the uterus were not reversible even after birth, the experts explain. Even if the young mice later received a normal diet, they did worse in the tests. The scientists also explain to mice that received a normal amount of the nutrient in the womb but were exposed to a vitamin A deficiency after birth. In other words: the main damage already occurs in the womb.
Early stages of development are critical to brain tissue
The early stages of development are crucial periods in which brain tissue is preprogrammed for the rest of a person's life, the researchers explain. During pregnancy, mothers should therefore eat a lot of yellow or orange fruits and green leafy vegetables instead of taking vitamin supplements, the experts advise. These foods contain a lot of vitamin A.
Too much vitamin A can harm the body
Of 330 elderly people in China examined, about 75 percent had either mild or significant vitamin A deficiency and had cognitive problems, the researchers say. The lack of vitamins often occurs in low-income countries. Vitamin A deficiency, on the other hand, is actually quite rare in western countries and there is therefore no reason to overreact, the authors explain. Excessive intake of the nutrient can also be harmful. (as)