Study finds infant vitamin B1 deficiency leads to poor motor function

Researchers made the finding after comparing infants fed an Israeli baby formula completely without B12, which led to several deaths, to infants that did not receive the formula.
By Amy Wallace  |  March 29, 2017 at 3:02 PM
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March 29 (UPI) -- Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that infantile vitamin B1 deficiency severely affected motor function in preschoolers who were fed faulty formula in infancy.

The study was conducted on children who were fed the baby formula Remedia, an Israeli formula brand that completely lacked vitamin B1 and is implicated in the deaths of infants in 2004.

Remedia was discontinued from sale in Israel in 2008, five years after three infants died and more than 20 had severe, irreversible damage to their hearts and central nervous systems because of the formula. Remedia was manufactured by the German firm Humana, and had removed vitamin B1 from the product but failed to notify the public and did not include it in its labeling.

A food technologist from Remedia was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2013.

Years later, researchers at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine studied the impact the formula had on surviving children, following the development of 39 5- and 6-year-old children exposed to the vitamin B1-deficient formula. The motor skill performances of the 39 who were fed the defective formula were then compared to 30 health children of the same age who did not have a deficiency.

Motor function was assessed using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children and the Zuk Assessment, and revealed statistically significant differences for gross and fine motor development between the children exposed to Remedia and those who were not exposed to it.

"The body's capacity for storing vitamin B1 is limited," Aviva Fattal-Valevski, professor at the Sackler School of Medicine and director of the Pediatric Neurology Unit at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, said in a press release. "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 vitamin is for child development. Even healthy babies might be at risk for B1 deficiency. We've proven that B1 deficiency in infancy has long-term implications on gross and fine motor function and balance skills in childhood."

The study was published in Maternal and Child Nutrition.

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