New research indicates that pregnant women who are vegetarian could run the risk that their children will become addicted to drugs.
A new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that teenagers whose moms' diets during pregnancy lacked the vitamin B12 were more likely to develop substance abuse, reports the Independent.
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Specifically, the research suggested that these teens were more likely to engage in drinking, smoking, and marijuana use, in contrast to teens whose mothers ate meat during their pregnancy.
For the study, which was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, researchers tracked tracked 15,000 children who were born to women in the city of Bristol, U.K., in 1991 and 1992, and compared the habits of 5,246 kids — with a median age of 15 years old — whose moms ate meat to those who didn't.
Based on the alcohol, drug, and tobacco use of the teens, the researchers said there was a link between a mom avoiding meat during her pregnancy and their child's increased risk of substance abuse.
The study notes that "reducing meat consumption is often advised, however inadvertent nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy may result in residual neurodevelopmental harms to offspring."
"Among Western populations, infants of vitamin B12 deficient mothers have poor brain growth, developmental regression, irritability, thrive poorly and demonstrate residual deficits in cognitive and social development," noted study lead author Dr Joseph Hibbeln.
Infants of vitamin B12 deficient mothers have poor brain growth, developmental regression, irritability, thrive poorly and demonstrate residual deficits in cognitive and social development.
So why is vitamin B12, which is found in animal foods such as red meat, poultry, and milk products, so important to fetal growth? B vitamins, especially B6, B9, and B12 all help minimize the risk of birth defects and play a crucial role in your strength and health while your baby is developing.
B12 specifically is essential for your baby's neural tube formation, brain, nerves, blood cells, and spine development, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
However, it's recommended that pregnant women avoid processed meats and unpasteurized milk and cheeses because they could have bacteria or parasites. Specifically, they should not eat cold cuts, deli meats, and undercooked cuts of meat such as steak, burger patties and tartare.
Now, you may be thinking, "But vegetarians and vegans have been having children for years and their kids are fine!" This is true, but health experts recommend that pregnant women who are vegetarian or vegan eat vegetarian foods that are B12-rich, along with taking vitamin supplements.
Health experts recommend that pregnant women who are vegetarian or vegan eat vegetarian foods that are B12-rich, along with taking vitamin supplements.
Foods that are a reliable source of B12 and are not meat include milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs. While no plant food naturally contains the vitamin, there are some that may be fortified with B12, including rice and soy beverages, plant-derived meat analogs, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeast.
The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) also says vegetarian moms needn't be alarmed by this research.
"The findings do not mean that vegetarian pregnant women need to start eating meat. It is already recommended that vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be take special care to ensure they get enough of certain nutrients that are found in meat and fish, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D and iron," the site noted.
The findings do not mean that vegetarian pregnant women need to start eating meat.
They also pointed out that more research needs to be done before scientists can reach a definite conclusion, and that there were a number of limitations in the study relating to participation, socioeconomic factors, and the reliability of the self-reporting of substance use and abuse.
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