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Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can affect the health of both mother and baby. The good news is that emerging research suggests that specific nutrients may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and vascular health.
In this study, 672 pregnant women at high risk for developing preeclampsia were randomly assigned to receive food bars that were supplemented with a total of 6.6 grams of L-arginine per day plus antioxidant vitamins, antioxidants vitamins alone, or a bar with no added nutrients (placebo) for the duration of their pregnancy. The women were enrolled in the study between weeks 14 and 32 of their pregnancy.
Results found that women who supplemented with L-arginine plus antioxidant vitamins had a significantly lower risk of preeclampsia compared with women in the placebo group. Preeclampsia developed in only 29 women in the L-arginine group versus 60 women in the placebo group.
While the study authors comment that the protective effect against preeclampsia may be greatest if women begin supplementing with L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins starting before the 24th week of pregnancy, further research is needed to learn more about the safety of taking L-arginine during pregnancy and the optimal amount and time to start taking it.
The authors report that they did not find concerning side effects from supplementation in this study, but warn that for women with peptic ulcer disease, taking L-arginine can worsen their symptoms.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent preeclampsia there are steps you can take to better ensure your health and the health of your baby. Here are a few tips:
(BMJ 2011;342:d2901 doi:10.1136/bmj.d290)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.