Not taking enough vitamin A while pregnant could increase the chance of the child being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a new study out of UBC suggests.
The research, released Friday and conducted by Dr. Weihong Song, the Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer’s disease, is based on findings in genetically-engineered mice.
It shows that even a slight deficiency in vitamin A increases the production of amyloid beta, the protein that forms plaques that smother and eventually kills neutrons. The mice also performed worse on a standard test of learning and memory.
However, the effects could be reversible. Mice who were deprived of the vitamin in the womb but then given supplements immediately after birth performed better on the memory tests than mice who weren’t given the supplements.
The study also included new evidence in humans of the vitamin A-dementia connection.
Examining 330 elderly people in China, Song and his collaborators found that 75 per cent of those with either a mild or significant vitamin A deficiency had cognitive impairment, compared to 47 per cent of those with normal vitamin A levels.
Despite the results, Song warned against piling on the Vitamin A, saying deficiencies are rare in North America and excess amounts of the nutrient could be harmful. Pregnant women in particular should refrain from taking excess vitamin A.