Simply supplementing a pregnant woman’s diet with antioxidant vitamins and the amino acid L-arginine could reduce her risk of developing preeclampsia according to research undertaken in Mexico City and published in the British Medical Journal.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition in which there are problems with the mother’s placenta that can lead to growth problems for the baby. It is fairly common, occurring in around 10% of first time pregnancies.
The symptoms of preeclampsia are high blood pressure, water retention, and protein in the urine which should show up on a regular urine test. Although mild preeclampsia is not dangerous if it is closely monitored, severe preeclampsia can lead to premature birth and complications for the mother.
The study looked at whether supplementing a pregnant mother’s diet with L-arginine had any impact on preeclampsia. L-arginine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that it can be produced within the body. It helps to maintain healthy circulation, which is why it has been linked with preeclampsia.
Aside from healthy blood flow, L-arginine is instrumental in growth hormone release, tissue growth, manufacturing T cells for immune function, neutralizing ammonia in the liver, increasing muscle mass, release of insulin in the pancreas, and production of skin and connective tissue.
What Does the Study Show?
Almost 700 pregnant women in Mexico City, chosen because they were considered to be at high risk of developing preeclampsia, took part in the study. They were divided into three groups and given food bars each day from week 20 of their pregnancies until they gave birth.
The first group of 228 women were given bars containing L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins. The second group of 222 women were given bars containing just antioxidant vitamins. The third placebo group of 222 women were given bars that contained neither of these ingredients.
The results of the study were as follows:
- 12.7% of the women in the L-arginine and antioxidant group developed preeclampsia
- 22.5% of the women in the antioxidant group developed preeclampsia
- 30.2% of the women in the placebo group developed preeclampsia
Although these figures seem high in relation to the average incidence of preeclampsia which is 10%, the women in the study were chosen specifically because they were at high risk of developing the condition, and the results clearly show that supplementing with both antioxidant vitamins and the amino acid L-arginine can have a positive impact of the risk of developing preeclampsia.
While experts agree that this is a major step forwards and a clear indication that there is a relatively simple and cost effective way to reduce the likelihood of preeclampsia, they also state that it is only a preliminary study, and that more research is needed into the widespread use of this type of supplementation.
Reducing Risk of Preeclampsia
While further research is carried out into preventing preeclampsia, women all over the world are still having babies, so here are a few steps you can take to reduce your own risk of this serious condition:
- Make sure you follow a healthy and varied diet containing plenty of the antioxidants found in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Lycopene.
- Make sure you have plenty of calcium in your diet along with Vitamin D which helps you to absorb it.
- Get plenty of rest when you are pregnant; if you have been told you are at high risk of developing preeclampsia try to rest for an additional four hours each day.
- Make sure you attend your prenatal appointments regularly and that your urine is tested each time to be sure preeclampsia is picked up early should you develop it.