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Your Environment. Your Health.

Vitamin B Protects Against DDT-Associated Fertility Problems

Xiaobin Wang, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University
NIEHS Grants: R01ES011682, R03ES022790

New research, supported in part by the NIEHS, shows that B vitamins can help protect against the increased risk of miscarriage that is associated with high levels of 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2,bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDT) in the body.

From 1996 to 1998, the researchers followed female Chinese textile workers who were trying to get pregnant. They measured preconception concentrations of vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folate in blood plasma, as well as serum total DDT. Among the 291 women in the study, there were 385 conceptions, of which 31 percent were lost before six weeks. The time to conception was longer and the frequency of pregnancy was lower in women with B-vitamin deficiency and high DDT blood levels, than in women with adequate B-vitamin levels and low DDT. For the women with high DDT, conception frequency increased by 47 percent for every 17.8 nanomoles per liter increase in vitamin B-6, and the likelihood of an early pregnancy loss was reduced by 45 percent with every 4.8 nanomoles per liter increase in folate.

To facilitate higher preconception intake of B vitamins, the researchers suggest fortified foods along with improved overall nutrition could help improve pregnancy outcomes in countries where DDT is still used.

Citation: Ouyang F, Longnecker MP, Venners SA, Johnson S, Korrick S, Zhang J, Xu X, Christian P, Wang MC, Wang X. 2014. Preconception serum 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2,bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane and B-vitamin status: independent and joint effects on women's reproductive outcomes. Am J Clin Nutr. 100(6):1470-1478.

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