Maternal Vitamin B12 Deficiency May Increase Diabetes Risk in Offspring

Vitamin B12 levels during pregnancy are of great significance to the future health of the babies. The University of Warwick Researchers has found that vitamin B12 deficiency can predispose children to metabolic problems such as type 2 diabetes. Scientists presented this stunning discovery at the Society for Endocrinology's annual Conference in Brighton.

In your nutrition consulting field, you may have come across reports about mothers with high BMI and low vitamin B12 levels giving birth to babies with low birth weight, high cholesterol, and higher insulin resistance. Previous research studies also prove this point. Well, this study could offer you more insight about the dangers associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.


The researchers from the University of Warwick's Warwick Medical School hypothesized that changes linked with vitamin B12 deficiency might be the result of abnormal levels of leptin- the appetite suppressing hormone.

Medical experts see this naturally occurring hormone known for its hunger-blocking effect on the hypothalamus, as an effective marker for body fat. Obese people are unresponsive to leptin levels. The leptin levels remain consistently higher than normal in obese people. The result of which is continued overeating, leptin resistance and an increased risk of insulin resistance.

Research studies also point out that high levels of leptin in the blood plasma can increase the risk of blood clots.

Vitamin B12 deficiency in pregnancy may affect offspring’s leptin levels

The researchers examined the vitamin B12 levels in 91 blood samples taken from mothers and their offspring at delivery. Additionally, they studied 83 placental tissue samples and 42 maternal and neonate fat tissue samples.

The investigators found that the babies born to mothers with vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to have higher –than-normal leptin levels. The results indicate maternal vitamin B12 deficiency may affect leptin gene programming, altering the hormone production during the fetal development.

“The nutritional environment provided by the mother can permanently program the baby’s health. We know that children born to under or over nourished mothers are at an increased risk of health problems such as type-2 diabetes, and we also see that maternal B12 deficiency may affect fat metabolism and contribute to this risk. This is why we decided to investigate leptin, the fat cell hormone,” says Dr. Ponusammy Saravanan, Associate Clinical Professor, University of Warwick and senior author of the study.

Further Research

The scientists are planning for further research to obtain the pathways and reasons for the increase of leptin levels in babies born to vitamin B12 deficient mothers. According to Dr. Adaikala Antonysunil, the co-author of the study, there may be two reasons for the increased leptin levels.

• Low B12 levels drive fat accumulation in the fetus which may result in increased leptin.

• Low B12 can cause chemical changes in the placental gene that produce leptin which increases the leptin production.

Dr. Adaikala Antonysunil, concludes saying,” As B12 is involved in methylation reactions in the body which can affect whether genes are turned on and off, we suspect it may be the latter."


The researchers hope to prove their suspicion true with further research studies. The findings could lead to a review of current vitamin B12 requirements for pregnant women, whether through enhanced diet or supplements.

The study results may be of importance to your clients who are pregnant or planning for a baby. Watch the space here for any new update regarding the study.

Please pass on this information in all your social media channels because it may be useful for pregnant mothers everywhere. Also kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.

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