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B12 Vitamins Increase the Presence of the Micronutrient in Mothers’ Breast Milk

Longevity By Nature

Vitamin B12Babies and children need vitamins, including vitamin B12, to help their brains and bodies develop and grow. Babies get B12 from their mothers and can have low levels of B12 if their mothers had low vitamin levels during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The vitamin B12 levels of infants strongly depend on maternal levels. Adequacy of vitamin B12 in breast milk is particularly important for infants during the first six months of life when breastfeeding is highly recommended. Even after the first six months of life, breast milk may continue to be a critical source of vitamin B12 for infants.

Pregnant and lactating women are at exceptionally high risk for vitamin B12 deficiency due to the increased nutritional demands as they provide the micronutrient for themselves and their babies. 

Many people receive the necessary B12 the body needs from animal-source foods.

However, in countries with low intake of animal-source diets, mother’s and infant’s deficiency in vitamin B12 is a serious public health challenge.

In resource-limited settings where maternal undernutrition is pervasive, researchers sought to understand the optimal timing and dosage of B12 supplements during pregnancy and lactation.

A new study led by George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health, Dongqing Wang found that pregnant women who took high doses of oral vitamin B12 supplements prior to delivery experienced short-term benefits on the levels of B12 in their breast milk. 

However, women who took high doses of vitamin B12 supplements during lactation experienced these benefits for a longer period of time.

“Understanding the impacts of prenatal and postnatal vitamin B12 supplements on the level of B12 in breast milk is crucial to design effective nutritional interventions to protect mothers and infants from vitamin B12 deficiencies,” Wang said, who was the principal investigator. “Our findings underscore the importance of prenatal vitamins for short-term benefits in breast milk and postnatal vitamins for more sustained impacts on B12 adequacy in breast milk; both prenatal and postnatal supplements support healthy growth and development in the baby.”

The study also found that the effect of the prenatal vitamin B12 supplement diminished when used together with the postnatal supplement. 

Likewise, the effect of the postnatal vitamin B12 supplement diminished when used together with the prenatal supplement.

“It appears that there was a certain plateau in the effect when prenatal and postnatal supplements were used together,” said Wang. 

“The plateau could mean that either prenatal or postnatal vitamins could correct maternal vitamin B12 deficiency, but the plateau does not preclude the need for combined prenatal and postnatal supplements through pregnancy and breastfeeding to sustain maternal B12 levels in populations with high levels of dietary inadequacy.”

For more information, visit www.gmu.edu.