May 23, 2011

Supplement Protects Against Preeclampsia

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows a dietary supplement containing an amino acid and antioxidant vitamins may protect pregnant women from preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia affects about 5 percent of women during their first pregnancy. It's a serious condition where moms-to-be experience high blood pressure and other disturbances. Preeclampsia is dangerous for both the mother and the baby.

Some believe preeclampsia may be linked to a deficiency in L-arginine -- an amino acid that helps maintain a healthy blood flow during pregnancy. A team of researchers in Mexico and the United States set out to test the theory that a combination of L-arginine and antioxidants could prevent preeclampsia in high-risk women.

High-risk pregnant women were divided into three groups: 228 received daily food bars containing L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins, 222 received bars containing only vitamins, and 222 received placebo bars that contained no L-arginine or vitamins. The women began taking the supplements when they were about 20 weeks pregnant and continued until delivery.

Results showed the proportion of women who developed preeclampsia was 30.2 percent in the placebo group, 22.5 percent in the vitamin only group, and 12.7 percent in the L-arginine plus vitamin group. The researchers also reported that the L-arginine plus vitamin combination significantly reduced the risk of premature birth when compared to placebo.

"This relatively simple and low cost intervention may have value in reducing the risk of preeclampsia and associated preterm birth," conclude the authors.

In an accompanying editorial, two UK experts say these findings are important but crucial questions remain such as: How do L-arginine and vitamins work together? What are the potential harmful effects? What are the effects in other settings and populations? They suggest more trials are needed to answer these questions.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, May 19, 2011