Could Preeclampsia Prevention Be This Easy?

Julie Ryan Evans

pregnantPreeclampsia is one of the most frightening things that can happen to a pregnant woman. For me, it came out of the blue with a fierce and vicious mission to kill me and the baby I was carrying who was just 26 weeks old at the time. The only cure is to deliver the baby, and many -- like mine -- are born much too early because of the deadly disease.

My second pregnancy was filled with dread and fear of it striking again. Fortunately, it didn't, and my daughter was born full-term and healthy. But why? Why did my body turn so violently on me once but not the second time? Luck? Vitamin D (we moved from Seattle to Florida between pregnancies)? Or perhaps as a new study indicates -- my diet?

While theories and pieces of the puzzle have been offered before, a new study seems particularly promising in preventing the recurrence of the disease using inexpensive dietary supplements.

In the study, women in Mexico at high risk for developing preeclampsia (most of whom had it previously) were given nutrition bars. Some contained the amino acid L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins while others were given bars with one or none of the extra ingredients. The rate of preeclampsia was dramatically lower in the women who ate the bars with both the L-arginine and vitamins (12.7 percent) than in those whose bars contained no supplements (30.2 percent). One of the study's researchers, Felipe Vanilla-Ortega, MD, PhD, said:

We saw a very strong protective benefit for supplementation with L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins. Of course our findings need to be confirmed. But preeclampsia is a very dangerous condition, and this appears to be a very inexpensive approach for lowering risk in high-risk women.

Wouldn't it be amazing if a disease that does so much damage and costs so many millions of dollars and lives around the world could be prevented with something as simple as a nutrition bar?

Obviously, it's not a panacea at this point, and many questions remain as to if there's any harm from the combination of the supplements and if the findings would be the same in more developed areas of the world where nutrition levels vary. Still it's promising to see some potential for preventing this tragic disease.

Have you suffered from preeclampsia?

Image via David Boyle/Flickr

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