A new study has discovered a link between a lack of vitamin A during pregnancy and a higher risk of developing dementia when the baby grows old.
The research, conducted by the University of British Columbia, further found that onset of the disease could be slowed or even prevented by supplementing a baby’s diet with the vitamin found in fruit and vegetables.
Dr Weihong Song, of the University of British Columbia, said: “Our study clearly shows that marginal deficiency of vitamin A, even as early as in pregnancy, has a detrimental effect on brain development and has a long lasting effect that may facilitate Alzheimer’s disease in later life.”
In the study, the scientists found that mice with a mild deficiency of vitamin A were producing greater amounts of amyloid beta in the brain, the protein responsible for causing dementia.
Likewise, mice which did not have access to vitamin A in the womb performed worse on standard tests of learning and memory compared to those which did.
Dr Song said: “In some cases, providing supplements to the newborn Alzheimer’s disease model mice could reduce the amyloid beta level and improve learning and memory deficits. It is a matter of the earlier, the better.”
However, he warned that vitamin A should be taken in a measured dose as excess intake could be harmful.
Good sources of the vitamin include tomatoes, spinach, carrots and lettuce, while smaller amounts can be found in butter, oily fish and eggs.