Marmite could help prevent millions of miscarriages and birth defects around the world. A landmark study in Australia has found Vitamin B3, a lot of which is found in the divisive yeast extract spread, can treat critical molecular deficiencies in pregnant women, according to a global media report.
The ground-breaking results were announced after 12 years of research by scientists at Sydney’s Victor Chang Cardia Research Institute.
Every year 7.9 million babies are born with a birth defect worldwide and in the UK, it’s estimated that one in six pregnancies end in a miscarriage.
Greg Hunt, Australia’s Health Minister, hailed the study as a “historic medical breakthrough”.
The scientists used genetic sequencing on families suffering from miscarriages and birth defects and found gene mutations that affected production of the molecule, NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found a deficiency in that important molecule can harm the development of the baby and its organs in the womb.
This supplement is vitamin B3, also known as niacin, which is found in various meats and green vegetables - as well as marmite and its Australian equivalent, Vegemite. A single serving of the black stuff contains 36 per cent of your recommended daily allowance of of B3.
Scientists made the breakthrough after investigating the effect of vitamin B3 on mice embryos that had the same genetic mutations as families that had experienced multiple congenital malformations.
Those mothers who were not given additional vitamin B3 went on to have a miscarriage or the babies were born with birth defects.
After adding the dietary supplement, however, all the offspring were born healthy.
Prof Robert Graham, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute executive director, compared the “profound” breakthough to the discovery in the previous century that found folic acid supplementation can prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects in babies.
Scientists are now trying to come up with a test that will measure levels of NAD in order to identify women who may be at greater risk.
Prof Dunwoodie also said there may not be enough of the crucial vitamin in most pregnancy supplements currently available because research has found at least a third of pregnant women have low levels of B3 in the first trimester.