Infant vitamin B1 deficiency leads to poor motor function and balance

March 29, 2017, Tel Aviv University
Credit: Tel Aviv University

A new Tel Aviv University study published in Maternal and Child Nutrition found that infantile Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency severely affected the motor function of preschoolers who were fed faulty formula in the first year of their lives. The conclusions were based on a retrospective study of children who received Remedia, an Israeli formula brand completely lacking in Vitamin B1, in 2004.

The study was conducted by Prof. Aviva Fattal-Valevski of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine and the director of the Pediatric Neurology Unit at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, and her master's student Yael Harel.

Prof. Fattal-Valevski followed the development of 39 five- to six-year-old children who had been exposed to a thiamine-deficient formula as . She compared their performance with 30 age-matched healthy children with unremarkable infant nutritional history.

The participants' motor function was evaluated with the Movement Assessment Battery for Children and the Zuk Assessment. Both tests revealed statistically significant differences between the exposed and unexposed groups for gross and fine motor development. The differences were especially noteworthy with regards to balance-control functioning and fine motor skills. Both assessments concurred on the high rate of children exhibiting motor function difficulties in comparison to the unexposed group.

Continuing effects of vitamin deficiency in infancy

Infant deaths caused 13 years ago by the Remedia formula brand in Israel brought to light the potentially devastating impact of vitamin B1 deficiency. The infants were hospitalized with cardiac and neurological symptoms caused by the lack of vitamin B1, which is usually found in their formula.

"At first it was a mystery," said Prof. Fattal-Valevski. "It was like an epidemic. But after the grandmothers discussed the situation in the waiting room, it became clear that the infants, all under a year old, had consumed the same formula.

"After a food technician from the Health Department confirmed the total lack of vitamin B1 in the , we immediately provided the infants with supplements. Some recovered quickly, but three infants died and about 20 infants were left with severe disabilities and epilepsy."

The need for awareness

"The body's capacity for storing Vitamin B1 is limited," said Prof. Fattal-Valevski. "Unlike vitamin B12, vitamin B1 is only stored in the body for three weeks. It needs to be frequently replenished. It is critical to be aware of how important this is for child development. Even healthy babies might be at risk for B1 deficiency. If your infant is suffering from virus after virus, you must intervene with extra vitamins. But it's a vicious cycle, because one of the first symptoms of lack of B1 in the system is an absence of appetite.

"We've proven that B1 deficiency in infancy has long-term implications on gross and fine and balance skills in childhood," said Prof. Fattal-Valevski. "Our study emphasizes the importance of proper infant feeding and regulatory control of breast milk substitutes."

The researchers are now focused on the link between infant B1 deficiency and later learning disabilities.

Explore further: Most breastfed infants not receiving recommended vitamin D supplementation

More information: Yael Harel et al, The effect of subclinical infantile thiamine deficiency on motor function in preschool children, Maternal & Child Nutrition (2017). DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12397

Related Stories

Most breastfed infants not receiving recommended vitamin D supplementation

January 9, 2017
Although daily vitamin D supplementation is recommended for breastfed infants, adherence to this recommendation is poor.

Increasing nursing mothers' vitamin D levels may benefit babies

August 30, 2016
New research from the University of Otago has found that giving breastfeeding mothers monthly high-dose vitamin D supplements may be a possible way to improve their babies' vitamin D status.

Research explores healthy weight gain in infants

March 20, 2017
Rapid weight gain in an infant's first six months of life is a risk factor for child- and adulthood obesity, according to researchers.

2000 to 2014 saw increase in vitamin D deficiency in children

February 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—From 2000 to 2014 there was an increase in the rate of vitamin D deficiency diagnosis among children, according to a study published online Feb. 3 in Pediatrics.

Certain factors affect vitamin D levels in children with chronic kidney disease

June 16, 2016
Researchers have identified certain modifiable and non-modifiable factors associated with vitamin D deficiency in children with chronic kidney disease (CKD). The findings, which appear in an upcoming issue of the Clinical ...

Low vitamin D linked to dry eye syndromes

February 10, 2016
(HealthDay)—Vitamin D deficiency is associated with dry eye and impaired tear function, according to a study published in the January issue of the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases.

Recommended for you

First biomarker evidence of DDT-autism link

August 16, 2018
A study of more than 1 million pregnancies in Finland reports that elevated levels of a metabolite of the banned insecticide DDT in the blood of pregnant women are linked to increased risk for autism in the offspring. An ...

The inequalities of prenatal stress

August 14, 2018
Exposure to an acute stress in utero can have long-term consequences extending into childhood – but only among children in poor households, according to a new Stanford study that looked at the long-term impact of acute, ...

Promoting HPV vaccine doesn't prompt risky sex by teens: study

August 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Controversial state laws that promote vaccinating kids against the human papillomavirus (HPV) do not increase the likelihood that teens will engage in risky sexual behavior, a new study contends.

Grip strength of children gives clues about their future health

August 13, 2018
While other studies have shown that muscle weakness as measured by grip strength is a predictor of unhealthy outcomes—including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, disability and even early mortality—this is the first ...

Prenatal vitamin D pills won't boost babies' growth: study

August 9, 2018
(HealthDay)—For pregnant women who are vitamin D-deficient, vitamin supplements won't improve the growth of their fetus or infant, Canadian researchers report.

Giving kids plates with segments and pictures caused them to eat more vegetables

August 8, 2018
A pair of researchers at the University of Colorado has found that preschool kids ate more vegetables when presented with segmented plates with pictures of fruits and vegetables on them. In their paper published in JAMA Pediatrics, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.