Taking Vitamin B3 could prevent miscarriages and birth defects, a study on mice suggests.
Researchers from the Victor Chang Institute in Sydney called it “a double breakthrough”, as they found both a cause and a preventative solution.
With 7.9 million babies born each year with a birth defect worldwide, the team hopes the benefits are wide-reaching.
But an expert said the findings “cannot be translated into recommendations” for pregnancy.
The researchers analysed the DNA of four families where the mothers had suffered multiple miscarriages or their babies were born with multiple birth defects, such as heart, kidney, vertebrae and cleft palate problems.
They found mutations in two genes that caused the child to be deficient in a vital molecule known as Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which allows cells to generate energy and organs to develop normally.
Lead researcher Prof Sally Dunwoodie replicated these mutations in mice but found they could be corrected if the pregnant mother took niacin (vitamin B3).
“You can boost your levels of NAD and completely prevent the miscarriages and birth defects. It bypasses the genetic problem,” she said. “It’s rare that you find a cause and a prevention in the same study. And the prevention is so simple, it’s a vitamin,” she said.
Dr Katie Morris, an expert in maternal foetal medicine at the University of Birmingham, said: “While exciting, this discovery cannot be translated into recommendations for pregnant women, who at most may be deficient in vitamin B3.
“The doses used in this research were 10 times the recommended daily doses for supplementation in women.”
She said the side-effects of this high dosage are not known, with pregnancy complications often occurring because of the complex interaction of a number of factors.
Prof Jean Golding, from the University of Bristol, called it a “solid piece of work” but cautioned against extrapolating too much from the findings, because they were based on the genetics of four families and mice.
For now, Prof Dunwoodie recommended pregnant women take a pregnancy-specific multivitamin, which includes the advised 18 milligrams of niacin.
“But, we’re not all the same in how we absorb nutrients,” she said, adding that body mass index and diabetes can influence how a woman produces NAD.
She added: “We don’t know who these women are that don’t make sufficient levels, so that will be the next thing to study.”
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Schizophrenia does not mean you have a split personality or automatically become violent, a mental health charity has warned.
Rethink Mental Illness said a survey of 1,500 people showed that the condition is widely misunderstood.
Schizophrenia commonly causes hallucinations, such as hearing voices, or delusions and can make people lose interest in life.
But it should not be "a dirty word or a term of abuse", the charity said.
The organisation warned such myths are dangerous.
One in 100 people is affected by schizophrenia during their life, but 45% of those surveyed thought the illness was much more common.
Half mistakenly thought the illness was defined by a split personality and a quarter believed it definitely led to violent behaviour.
But the reality is very different, a new campaign by the charity claims.
It is not true that "someone with schizophrenia can appear perfectly normal at one moment, and change into a different person the next", the Royal College of Psychiatrists says on its website .
And although there is a higher risk of violent behaviour if you have schizophrenia, it does not necessarily make people dangerous.
Comparatively, drugs and alcohol cause far more violence.
People with schizophrenia are far more likely to be harmed by other people than other people are to be harmed by them, the psychiatrists say.
Schizophrenia can affect the way individuals think, feel and behave.
Experiencing hallucinations is common and people often hear voices, which can sound very real and be critical and abusive, although they are all in the mind.Image copyright MRC Image caption Brain scans have discovered higher activity levels in part of the brain's immune system in schizophrenia patients than in healthy volunteers
Delusions can occur too, which means believing something completely and feeling like no-one else sees the world in the same way.
Other symptoms can include depression, loss of concentration and feeling uncomfortable around other people. Some people also have painful feelings in their body.
The Rethink Schizophrenia campaign said the illness can affect other aspects of life too - for example people with schizophrenia die 15 to 20 years earlier than the rest of the population on average.
And only 8% of those with the illness who want to work are currently employed.
The charity said this is because physical health problems are often missed or attributed to mental illness, and the side-effects of medication can cause complications.
Brian Dow, director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, said: "It's about time we all got to grips with what schizophrenia is and what it isn't.
"Schizophrenia can be treated and managed, just like many other illnesses. It's not a dirty word or, worse, a term of abuse."
He added that myths stopped people from getting jobs, forming relationships and getting access to the healthcare they needed.
"The symptoms of schizophrenia don't fit neatly into a box, everyone will experience it differently," he said.
"However, we can all play a role in rethinking schizophrenia, and helping to change attitudes, by learning to separate the myths from the facts."
Prof Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said it was "astounding" that schizophrenia was still so widely misunderstood.
"To tackle the stigma that so many living with schizophrenia face, we have a huge task ahead of us in informing and educating the public," she said.
"We also need to ensure that more medical students choose psychiatry so that those living with schizophrenia have specialist doctors available to treat them."