3. Insufficient Vitamin B12 in pregnancy

may raise offspring's diabetes risk

Children born to mothers who had vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy may be at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders, a new study presented by senior author Dr. Ponusammy Saravanan, of the University of Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom at the Annual Society for Endocrinologists conference in Brighton, UK finds.

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin naturally present in animal products, such as milk, eggs, cheese, meat, poultry, and fish and some non-animal products, such as breakfast cereals. The recommended daily vitamin B12 intake for individuals aged 14 and older is 2.4 micrograms, increasing slightly to 2.6 micrograms for expectant mothers, and 2.8 micrograms while breast-feeding. Dr. Saravanan and colleagues say previous research has shown that women with low vitamin B12 levels during pregnancy are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and have low-birth-weight babies with high cholesterol. Additionally, such research has shown these babies have greater insulin resistance in childhood, raising their risk for type 2 diabetes. Dr. Saravanan and team set out to determine whether these previous observations might be associated with leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells. Often referred to as the "satiety hormone," leptin tells us when it is time to stop eating. Research has shown that excess weight can cause an increase in leptin levels in response to food intake.

This can cause leptin resistance, which may lead to further overeating, weight gain, and insulin resistance, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. For their study, the researchers analyzed 91 blood samples taken from mothers and their offspring at delivery to determine vitamin B12 levels. Additionally, they analyzed 42 maternal and neonate fat tissue samples and 83 placental tissue samples. The researchers found that children born to mothers with vitamin B12 deficiency - defined as less than 150 picomoles per liter - were more likely to have higher-than-normal leptin levels, which may raise their risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The team speculates that vitamin B12 deficiency in expectant mothers may affect leptin gene programming, altering production of the hormone during fetal development.

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