Babes benefit when HIV+ moms take a multivitamin

Maternal multivitamin supplements containing vitamins B, C and E reduce the risks of motor developmental delays in infants born to HIV-positive mothers in developing countries, according to a study in Tanzania, Africa.

These findings support current recommendations to give multivitamin supplements, in addition to an anti-retroviral treatment, to HIV-1-infected pregnant women in developing countries, note the authors of the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Supplement administration has already been associated with delays in HIV progression and reduced complications such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and fetal death.

The team of researchers, led by Dr. Nuala McGrath from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, set out to determine the relation between maternal multivitamin use and the mental and motor development of 327 children born to HIV-1-positive mothers.

A population of HIV-1-infected women received daily doses of either vitamin A alone, a multivitamin regimen of vitamins B1, B2, B6, niacin, B12, C, E and folic acid, both supplements combined, or placebo. The treatment lasted throughout pregnancy and continued for 18 months after delivery.

Their results indicate that a multivitamin supplement (B, C and E without A) had significant positive effects on motor scores, as assessed by a validated index.

The observed increase of 2.6 points in the average motor index of a population translates into a 35 percent reduction of the number of individuals who would require greater educational resources, medical care, and other social supports, the authors write.

These effects were variable across subgroups and children born to women with advanced disease appear to benefit the most from multivitamin supplements.

The team also found that the multivitamin regimen offered significant protection against motor developmental delays (relative risk 0.4), but did not affect mental scores significantly.

Vitamin A, on the other hand, was not associated with a change in either mental or motor function, nor did its combination with the multivitamin supplement improve mental or motor development scores.

SOURCE: Pediatrics February 2006.

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Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD