Vitamin C supplementation to pregnant women who smoke reduces the risk of lung damage in their infants, according to a recent randomized control study led by Dr. McEvoy, professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University. The findings of this study appear in the American Thoracic Society's
during pregnancy. The team also plans to continue follow-up of these infants to monitor their lung function and respiratory health.
In the words of Dr McEvoy, "Finding a way to help infants exposed to smoking and nicotine in utero recognizes the unique dangers posed by a highly advertised, addictive product and the lifetime effects on offspring who did not choose to be exposed."
Role of Vitamin C in Reducing Lung Damage
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant and helps prevent damaging of various tissues including the lungs. Oxidative stress
causes injury and cell death due to the accumulation of free radicals such as peroxides within the cell. Smoking reduces the levels of ascorbic acid
resulting in decreased antioxidants to counter the oxidative stress by eliminating the free radicals.
Exposure of the fetus to smoke can thus cause lung damage and reduce lung function. Supplementing vitamin C to the mother restores antioxidant activity to counter the damage
caused by free radicals and improve lung function.
Limitations of Previous Research
Previous research on the subject has shown that lung function measured on Day 3 of life was better in babies born to mothers who smoked and were given vitamin C (500 mg/day) supplementation during their pregnancy compared to babies of mothers who were randomized to placebo.
The earlier study employed passive methods to assess lung function of the babies whereas, the FEF employed in the current study is used in adults and older children to assess lung function and offers a more direct measurement
of airway status.
Future Research Plans
Future plans include evaluating
- Whether the benefits of starting vitamin C supplementation earlier would have greater benefit in improving the infant's lung function
- The effect on lung function of supplementing the babies with vitamin C after birth
In conclusion, although vitamin C given to pregnant women who smoke helps lower the risk of lung damage in the baby, the primary aim should be to help the woman give up smoking since smoke exposure can cause obesity, behavioral disorders and other serious health issues later in these children. Reference :
- Oral Vitamin C (500 mg/day) to Pregnant Smokers Improves Infant Airway Function at 3 Months (VCSIP): A Randomized Trial - (https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/rccm.201805-1011OC)