Study: Vitamin C could improve baby's lung function in women who smoke through pregnancy

CHICAGO — Supplemental vitamin C taken by pregnant smokers improved measures of lung function for newborns and decreased the incidence of wheezing for infants through 1 year, according to a study published by JAMA that was released Sunday. The study was released early online to coincide with its presentation at the American Thoracic Society International Conference.

The researchers found that newborns of women randomized to vitamin C, compared with those randomized to placebo, had improved measures of pulmonary function. Offspring of women randomized to vitamin C had significantly decreased wheezing through age 1 year (21% vs. 40%). There were no significant differences in the 1-year PFT results between the vitamin C and placebo groups.

"Although smoking cessation is the foremost goal, most pregnant smokers continue to smoke, supporting the need for a pharmacologic intervention," stated lead author Cindy McEvoy of Oregon Health & Science University. Other studies have demonstrated that reduced pulmonary function in offspring of smokers continues into childhood and up to age 21 years. "This emphasizes the important opportunity of in-utero intervention," she said. "Individuals who begin life with decreased PFT measures may be at increased risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

"Vitamin C supplementation in pregnant smokers may be an inexpensive and simple approach — with continued smoking-cessation counseling — to decrease some of the effects of smoking in pregnancy on newborn pulmonary function and, ultimately, infant respiratory morbidities, but further study is required," McEvoy concluded.

More than 50% of smokers who become pregnant continue to smoke, corresponding to 12% of all pregnancies. Smoking during pregnancy adversely affects lung development, with lifelong decreases in pulmonary function. At birth, newborn infants born to smokers show decreased pulmonary function test results, with respiratory changes leading to increased hospitalization for respiratory infections and increased incidence of childhood asthma, according to background information on the article. In a study involving primates, vitamin C blocked some of the in-utero effects of nicotine on lung development and pulmonary function in offspring.




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