Effect of maternal dietary niacin intake on congenital anomalies: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Shanika Palawaththa, Rakibul M. Islam, Dragan Illic, Kate Rabel, Marie Lee, Lorena Romero, Xing Yu Leung, Md Nazmul Karim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: The significance of niacin in embryonic development has clinical implications in the counseling of pregnant women and may be used to inform nutrition recommendations. This study, therefore, aims to review the associations between maternal periconceptional niacin intake and congenital anomalies. Methods: A systematic search of Ovid MEDLINE, ClinicalTrials.gov, AMED, CENTRAL, Emcare, EMBASE, Maternity & Infant Care and Google Scholar was conducted between inception and 30 September 2020. Medical subject heading terms included “nicotinic acids” and related metabolites, “congenital anomalies” and specific types of congenital anomalies. Included studies reported the association between maternal niacin intake and congenital anomalies in their offspring and reported the measure of association. Studies involved solely the women with co-morbidities, animal, in vitro and qualitative studies were excluded. The risk of bias of included studies was assessed using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale (NOS). A random effects-restricted maximum likelihood model was used to obtain summary estimates, and multivariable meta-regression model was used to adjust study-level covariates. Results: Of 21,908 retrieved citations, 14 case–control studies including 35,743 women met the inclusion criteria. Ten studies were conducted in the U.S, three in Netherlands and one in South Africa. The meta-analysis showed that expectant mothers with an insufficient niacin intake were significantly more likely to have babies with congenital abnormalities (odds ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval 1.02–1.24) compared to mothers with adequate niacin intake. A similar association between niacin deficiency and congenital anomalies was observed (OR 1.15, 95% CI 1.03–1.26) when sensitivity analysis was conducted by quality of the included studies. Meta-regression showed neither statistically significant impact of study size (p = 0.859) nor time of niacin assessment (p = 0.127). The overall quality of evidence used is high—thirteen studies achieved a rating of six or seven stars out of a possible nine based on the NOS. Conclusion: Inadequate maternal niacin intake is associated with an increased risk of congenital anomalies in the offspring. These findings may have implications in dietary counseling and use of niacin supplementation during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1133-1142
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Birth defect
  • Congenital anomaly
  • NAD
  • Niacin
  • Pregnancy outcome
  • Vitamin B3

Cite this