To conduct this research, scientists studied a small group of infant monkeys born to mothers who received regular doses of nicotine -- doses comparable to those of a smoking human mother. The breathing abilities and lung development of these monkeys was then compared with monkeys born to mothers who had received both nicotine and vitamin C doses during pregnancy. A third group of baby monkeys that did not receive either nicotine or vitamin C during prenatal development were studied as a control group.
"We found that animals exposed to nicotine prior to birth had reduced air flow in the lungs compared to animals that were given nicotine and vitamin C. In fact, the nicotine plus vitamin C group had lung air flow close to that of a normal animal," explained Spindel. "Other notable observations were that increased levels of surfactant apoprotein B protein normally caused by nicotine were reduced by vitamin C. In addition, elastin levels in the lungs appeared to be slightly impacted by vitamin C. This finding may be significant as elastin plays a key role in the expansion and contraction of lung during breathing."
"Smoking remains a very significant problem during pregnancy and also during infancy," explained Michael Gravett, M.D., chief of maternal-fetal medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine, and a researcher at ONPRC. "While we strongly encourage all women to quit smoking, this is not always possible. These data suggest that vitamin C may be an important tool in preventing smoking-induced adverse outcomes."
While the research demonstrates vitamin C's promise for counteracting the effects of nicotine on lung function, scientists note that vitamin C did not counteract other negative health impacts of smoking during pregnancy such as
Contact: Jim Newman
Oregon Health & Science University