Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This is provided for informational purposes only. As always, consult your health care provider before starting or stopping a treatment plan.
Diet is such a complex issue. I plan to cover it in several posts. Today's post focuses on vitamins and minerals.
We all know how important it is to eat healthy, and especially during pregnancy. We all know we should be eating whole foods with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats. We know we should not be eating processed foods or lots of sugar or refined grains. Eating well will keep you and your baby as healthy as possible so you both have the best chance of surviving any complication that may come up, including preelcampsia and related conditions. But will diet prevent PE?
This 2008 study looked at the blood work of women who already had preeclampsia and compared it to both healthy pregnant women and non-pregnant women. It found women with PE had lower levels of antioxidant enzymes and vitamins A, D, and E. This shows there is a connection to nutrients in the blood and preeclampsia. But the question remains: did deficiencies cause PE, did PE cause deficiencies, or is there some other factor at play in both of these? More importantly, would correcting these deficiencies prevent PE?
This recent review looked at taking antioxidant supplements as a way to prevent PE. It found no improvement in outcomes. This 2008 review actually found an increase in pregnancy induced hypertention with antioxidant supplements, although it did not appear that these cases progressed to full PE any more often.
This review looked at vitamin E supplementation. It showed mixed results--when analyzed one way, the data showed decreased PE rates, but another way showed no change. A similar mixed result of data occured in this review looking at supplementing vitamin C. It did show increased risk of preterm birth with vitamin C supplementation.
This article reported that many pregnant women are deficient in vitamin D. Not all women who are deficient develop PE, and not all women who develop PE are deficient, but a greater percentage of women with PE are deficient than those without PE. So it appears vitamin D deficiency raises risk of PE, but it's not an absolute connection. This review found that supplementing women deficient in vitamin D did raise the levels in their blood, but that did not change the rates of PE.
This study found calcium deficiencies in blood work of severely preeclamptic women compared to healthy pregnant women. This large study attempted to prevent PE through calcium supplementation. The results were no difference in PE rates among the supplemented and placebo groups.
From the above studies, it appears improving intake of various vitamins and minerals offers little to no benefit in the prevention of preeclampsia. Yes, we should definitely be eating healthy. But we can't count on diet to prevent PE.