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Levels of B vitamins in pregnant women affect their children’s risk of eczema

Levels of B vitamins in pregnant women affect their children’s risk of eczemaFewer children have eczema around the age of 12 months if their mothers had higher levels of a particular B vitamin during pregnancy, according to a new study from the University of Southampton.

The study is the first to link levels of nicotinamide (a type of vitamin B3) in the pregnant mother to her child’s risk of developing atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. According to the scientists, the study supports the assumption that the risk of developing eczema can be lowered if the fetus is properly supplied with the nutrients it needs for support of healthy skin.
Dr. Sarah El-Heis who headed the study says that nicotinamide cream has been used to treat eczema, but medical science has not been aware that the mother’s levels of the nutrient during pregnancy affects her child’s risk of developing eczema.

People with atopic eczema tend to have dry skin, a low scratch threshold, and an increased risk of developing other so-called atopic conditions such as asthma and allergies.          

Vitamin B3 – sources and functions

Vitamin B3 (niacin) occurs naturally as nicotinamide or nicotinic acid. The name originates from the tobacco plant that is able to produce nicotine. Good sources of vitamin B3 are meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and seeds. The body produces small amounts of vitamin B3 from vitamin B6 and from the amino acid tryptophan that is found mainly in meat.
Vitamin B3 is particularly important for the energy metabolism, the skin, and the nervous system.

30 percent lower risk of developing eczema

497 heavily pregnant women took part in The Southampton Women’s Survey where researchers measured the women’s levels of nicotinamide, tryptophan and other substances involved in the body’s production of nicotinamide. Later on, the researchers investigated the prevalence of eczema among the children once they had reached an age of six and twelve months.
The study revealed that children of mothers who had the highest nicotinamide levels were 30 less likely to develop atopic eczema at the age of 12 months. The risk was found to have an even stronger link to levels of anthranilic acid, which is involved in the metabolism of tryptophan and vitamin B3. The study is published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy (2016)

Nicotinamide and its importance for skin

Nicotinamide influences the skin structure, moisture, and elasticity, which is why this B vitamin may have a positive influence on the prevention and treatment of eczema. However, the researchers also point out that other nutrients play a role and therefore warrant further studies. Still, the new study serves to show how important it is to eat a varied and healthy diet during pregnancy.


S. El-Heis et al. Higher maternal serum concentrations of nicotinamide and related metabolites in late pregnancy are associated with lower risk of offspring atopic eczema at age 12 month. Clinical & Experimental Allergy 2016

University of Southampton. Vitamin B levels during pregnancy linked to eczema risk in child. ScienceDaily. 2016

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