-- Randy Dotinga
FRIDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Though a new study suggests
that a dietary supplement could lower the likelihood that high-risk
pregnant women will develop preeclampsia, the jury is still out
over whether it actually works and a specialist recommends that
women not try it yet.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can boost blood
pressure to abnormally high levels, causing hypertension. It
affects about 5 percent of first pregnancies.
"Women die of uncontrolled hypertension through stroke or multi-organ failure," said Dr. David Williams, an obstetrician and consultant in maternal medicine at University College London Hospitals, who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the study, which was published online May 19 in BMJ.
"Comprehensive prenatal care and modern medical practice in developed countries makes maternal mortality from preeclampsia a rare event, but it accounts for 20 percent of maternal mortality in many developing countries," Williams explained.
Scientists suspect that low levels of an amino acid called
L-arginine could play a role in the development of the disease, and
some have wondered whether antioxidant vitamins could lower the
risk of the condition.
For the study, researchers in Mexico assigned high-risk pregnant
women to one of three groups: 228 ate food bars containing
L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins; 222 ate bars with vitamins
only; and 222 ate bars that didn't contain the amino acid or the
vitamins, considered the placebo group.
After eating the food bars daily from 20 weeks into their
pregnancy through delivery, only 13 percent of the women who ate
bars with L-arginine plus antioxidants developed preeclampsia; they
also were less likely to give birth prematurely. In the
vitamins-only group, 23 percent developed preeclampsia, as did 30
percent of women in the placebo group.
"This relatively simple and low-cost intervention may have value in reducing the risk of preeclampsia and associated preterm birth," the study concluded.
But the authors of the accompanying commentary raise questions
about possible harmful effects and suggest there needs to be more
research to understand "the numerous inconsistent strands of
evidence relating to L-arginine and its possible effects on
Williams said: "We still do not understand the complex,
interacting ways in which preeclampsia develops, and it is likely
to be different in different women. More work needs to be done to
understand the potential of L-arginine with antioxidant vitamins,
and at this stage, we do not recommend that this supplementation
should be given to women at risk of preeclampsia."
For more about
preeclampsia, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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