Vitamin B Improves Pregnancy Outcomes for Women Exposed to Pesticide

January 7, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Women exposed to a common pesticide have a better chance of becoming and staying pregnant if they get enough vitamin B.

Women exposed to a common pesticide have a better chance of becoming and staying pregnant if they get enough vitamin B, a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reports.

As a known endocrine disruptor, DDT has been associated with an increased risk of early miscarriage. However, the researchers posited that improved nutrition could counteract the adverse side effects of the pesticide, which can linger for decades in the body and the environment.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted from 1996 to 1998 and involved 291 Chinese textile workers who were trying to become pregnant. The subjects’ urine samples were tested every day for up to a year in order for the researchers to get an early detection of pregnancy. The women were also tested for their levels of B vitamins, DDT, and DDE, which is a degraded product of DDT.

Of the 385 conceptions recorded in the study, 31% were lost before 6 weeks, the researchers found. Women with high DDT levels and sufficient levels of B vitamins had a 42% chance of early miscarriage compared with those who had lower DDT levels. Furthermore, women with low levels of B vitamins and high levels of DDT were twice as likely to experience a miscarriage before 6 weeks, and it took them almost twice as long to conceive, according to the study authors.

B-12 and folic acid were highlighted as 2 types of B vitamins that are especially important during pregnancy.

“In general, pharmacists may educate reproductive-aged women and those who intend to get pregnant on the importance to maintain optimal nutrition, including optimal B vitamin intake, which is not only an essential micronutrient in itself…but also may have a protective effect that counteracts exposure to pesticides such as DDT,” lead study author Xiaobin Wang, MD, ScD, MPH, the Zanvyl Krieger professor and director of the Center on the Early Life Origins of Disease at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Pharmacy Times.

Dr. Wang highlighted concern for patients who emigrate from countries where DDT is still common or where environment DDT residue is high. He warned that some food grown in US soil might even contain DDT residue. Dr. Wang also noted that low-income women who might not consume enough leafy green vegetables and beans, which are high in B vitamins, are also at risk.

“Pharmacists may educate women at high-risk of low B-vitamin intake and/or high exposure to DDT, given that many countries still do not have mandatory folic acid fortification, and DDT is still used to kill mosquitoes in many countries where malaria remains a serious public health concern,” Dr. Wang told Pharmacy Times.