Prenatal multivitamins don’t help much, study finds

For pregnant women, taking prenatal vitamins can be a waste of money, according to a new review of previous research.

Instead of taking multivitamin and mineral supplements, pregnant women should focus on improving the overall quality of their diet and should only take two vitamins: folic acid and vitamin D, according to the study. conducted by researchers in the UK.

“We found no evidence to recommend that all pregnant women take prenatal multinutrient supplements beyond the nationally recommended folic acid and vitamin D supplements, generic versions of which can be purchased relatively inexpensively” , the authors wrote in the report, released today (July 11). ) in the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.

Although multivitamin supplements are frequently marketed to pregnant women as a way to give their babies the best possible start in life, such marketing claims do not actually translate to better health for mothers or babies, have said the researchers. [11 Big Fat Pregnancy Myths]

However, eating healthy foods before and during pregnancy is essential for the health of mothers and their unborn children, as vitamin deficiencies have been linked to various complications in pregnancy and childbirth, the researchers said. These complications include pregnancy-induced high blood pressure called preeclampsia, restricted fetal growth, skeletal malformations, low birth weight, and birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord, the researchers said.

Currently, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women eat a balanced diet that includes foods from five food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, protein foods, and dairy products. Pregnant women also need more folic acid and iron than non-pregnant women, and so taking prenatal vitamin supplements, which contain these and other nutrients, can help ensure that pregnant women get those extra amounts, according to ACOG. But, “a well-balanced diet should provide all the other vitamins and minerals” a pregnant woman needs, according to the group.

In the review, the researchers looked at previous research looking at the effects of taking multivitamin supplements, which the researchers say are heavily marketed to pregnant women to guard against all sorts of health problems. These supplements usually contain a combination of several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E and K, as well as folic acid, iodine, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and selenium, the researchers said.

The researchers also reviewed published research examining the potential health benefits during pregnancy of taking individual vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, vitamin D, and iron, as well as vitamins C, E, and A. .

With the exception of folic acid and vitamin D, the review authors found no evidence that well-nourished women experienced any clinical benefit from taking the other supplements reviewed.

The researchers found that the recommendation to take folic acid during pregnancy was supported by the strongest scientific evidence, compared to evidence for other vitamins and minerals.

The researchers also found scientific evidence showing a benefit from taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy, but this evidence was less clear, the researchers said. The researchers still recommended that pregnant women take a daily dose of 10 micrograms of vitamin D, which is equivalent to 400 international units, throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding (this is also the dose average vitamin D found in prenatal supplements in the United States)

However, Bruce W. Hollis, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) who was not involved in the study, said he thought this dose of vitamin D was not enough. to provide optimal health benefits to pregnant women or the health of their children. [Blossoming Body: 8 Odd Changes That Happen During Pregnancy]

A growing body of research, including her own studies, has suggested that taking up to 4,000 international units of vitamin D daily during pregnancy is linked to health benefits such as a lower risk of premature delivery and preeclampsia, and a lower risk of asthma. in children, he says.

Dr. Carol Wagner, also a professor of pediatrics at MUSC who has conducted research on vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy, agreed that pregnant women should take much higher doses of vitamin D than what is recommended in the new review.

She and Hollis said that vitamin D is not present in many foods, except fish or milk, for example, and therefore it is difficult to obtain it in sufficient doses in one’s diet. .

“A glass of milk provides 100 international units” of vitamin D, Wagner told Live Science.

Originally published on Live Science.

Patricia J. Callender