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Vitamin C May Help Protect Babies of Smoking Moms

It counteracts nicotine's effect on newborn lungs

MONDAY, May 2, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- High doses of vitamin C may help reduce fetal lung damage linked to maternal smoking, according to new research in monkeys.

The findings, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care, may benefit the thousands of babies born each year in the United States to women who ignore doctors' warnings and continue to smoke while they're pregnant.

"The findings of this research are highly applicable to humans," senior author Dr. Eliot Spindel, a scientist in the neuroscience division at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues studied infant monkeys born to mothers who received regular doses of nicotine comparable to those of a woman who smokes. The breathing abilities and lung development of these infant monkeys were compared to infant monkeys whose mothers had received both nicotine and vitamin C during pregnancy. There was also a third control group of infant monkeys whose mothers did not receive either nicotine or vitamin C during pregnancy.

"We found that animals exposed to nicotine prior to birth had reduced air flow in the lungs compared to animals that were given nicotine and vitamin C. In fact, the nicotine plus vitamin C group had lung air flow close to that of a normal animal," Spindel said.

The researchers also found that the offspring of pregnant monkeys given the nicotine-vitamin C combo had healthier levels of compounds important to the expansion and contraction of the lungs, compared to offspring whose mothers received nicotine alone.

The researchers stressed that none of this means women should smoke during their pregnancies, however -- even if they take vitamin C. While this study found that vitamin C might help counteract nicotine's effects on infant lung function, vitamin C did not prevent other negative smoking-related health effects during pregnancy, including abnormal fetal brain development and decreases in body weight, they say.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about smoking and pregnancy.

SOURCE: Oregon Health & Science University, news release, May 1, 2005
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