Babies who lacked vitamin E nourishment when in the womb are likely to be at an increased risk of developing impairments in mental skills such as learning and metabolic problems, a research has showed.
The study, conducted on zebrafish because their neurological development is similar to that of humans, showed that vitamin E-deficient embryos of zebrafish had more deformities and greater incidence of death as well as an altered DNA methylation status through five days after fertilisation — the time it takes for a fertilised egg to become a swimming zebrafish.
However, even after being fed with vitamin E-adequate diet, after their birth, these fish failed to learn and were found afraid.
Although "they managed to get through the critical period to get the brain formed, they were stupid and didn't learn and didn't respond right", said Maret Traber, Professor at the Oregon State University (OSU) in the US.
As a result of vitamin E deficiency, the brains of these embryos' continued to lack choline and glucose and simply did not develop correctly, Traber added.
The problem may be exacerbated in women of child-bearing age who avoid high-fat foods and may not have a diet rich in oils, nuts and seeds, which are among the foods with the highest levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant necessary for normal embryonic development in vertebrates, the researchers explained in the paper published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
Further, the Zebrafish with deficiency in Vitamin E also had metabolic defects and indications of mitochondrial damage.
"They had so much oxidative damage they essentially had a screwed-up metabolism. These outcomes suggest embryonic vitamin E deficiency in zebrafish causes lasting impairments that aren't resolved via later dietary vitamin E supplementation," Traber said.