A significant percentage of women may be vulnerable to mild deficiency of the B-vitamin biotin during their pregnancies, possibly increasing their risk of having a child with birth defects, say researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
Previous research has indicated that lab animals induced to have a deficiency in biotin appear normal, but are more prone to having babies with birth defects such as cleft palate. It is still unknown by what process a maternal deficiency in biotin could cause such effects on a fetus.
However, previous studies have shown that many pregnant women eating a normal diet show increased urinary excretion of a substance called 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid (3-HIA), which may be a marker for biotin deficiency. In this study, the researchers followed a group of 26 pregnant women who had high levels of 3-HIA excretion. They gave half the women supplements of 300 micrograms of biotin daily for 2 weeks, while the other half were given placebo, or dummy, medicines.
The investigators found that all the women provided with biotin supplements showed a drop in their 3-HIA excretion to normal levels, while the women given placebo medicines continued to excrete high levels of 3-HIA. The women who received biotin also had a significant increase in biotin excretion, while women who received the placebo showed no change in biotin excretion.
The results provide evidence that increased 3-HIA excretion indicates mild or moderate biotin deficiency, but it is not proof that biotin deficiency causes birth defects. The study authors warn that the results are preliminary and it is too early to recommend that women seek out biotin supplements or get more biotin in their diets. It's not routinely provided in maternal supplements, and there's not enough evidence to strongly recommend it be included in prenatal supplements.
The researchers hope to conduct further studies to determine if babies born with cleft palate have signs of biotin deficiency in their cord blood, or even conduct a large, randomized controlled trial to see whether widespread biotin supplementation would reduce the numbers of babies born with cleft palate.
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