Diets High in Vitamin C May Prevent Preeclampsia
According to a new study published in Epidemiology (2002;13:409-16), vitamin C may be important for the prevention of preeclampsia (also called toxemia of pregnancy), a common and dangerous syndrome that occurs in some women during pregnancy.
In this study, the authors compared both the dietary intake and blood concentrations of vitamin C in 100 women with preeclampsia and in a group of healthy pregnant women. Women with preeclampsia were found to be significantly more likely to have low dietary intake or blood concentrations of vitamin C, or both, than were the healthy women.
What is not clear from this study is whether low vitamin C levels actually caused the preeclampsia. It is possible, for instance, that diets low in vitamin C could also be low in another nutrient that is important for the prevention of preeclampsia.
Other published studies, however, also support the preventative role of vitamin C. A clinical trial published in 1999 found that supplementation with 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E per day beginning in the 20th week of pregnancy reduced the incidence of preeclampsia by 76%.
Preeclampsia is a syndrome occurring in pregnant women that is marked by high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia can progress to eclampsia, causing blood pressure so high it can induce seizures. The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, although it is thought to be caused by a malfunction of the blood vessels.
The incidence of preeclampsia has increased by 40% in the last decade. It is currently the second leading cause of maternal death in the United States.
Calcium supplementation remains the best-studied preventative measure for preeclampsia. Most, but not all, clinical trials have found that calcium supplementation (usually 2,000 mg per day) brings about a reduction in the preeclampsia risk in women known to be at high risk of the disease. Other nutritional supplements, including vitamin B6, fish oil, and magnesium have also been shown to reduce incidence of preeclampsia in preliminary trials.
Matt Brignall, ND, is in practice at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center and at the Evergreen Integrative Medicine Clinic in Kirkland, WA. He specializes in integrative treatment of cancer. He is a contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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