According to the Los Angeles County Department of Health, the statistics for pregnancy complications in the city are better than the national average; however, the health department notes that LA currently has not reached the national Healthy People goals for reproductive health. Preeclampsia (toxemia) is a pregnancy complication that can jeopardize the health of the mother and the child. It can progress to eclampsia, which is manifested by seizures. Good nutrition preceding and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of preeclampsia. According to a study published online in the British Medical Journal, dietary supplementation during pregnancy with L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins helps prevent preeclampsia in women at high risk for preeclampsia. The study was conducted by Felipe Vadillo-Ortega, from the Department of Experimental Medicine, School of Medicine, Universidad Nacional, Autonoma de Mexico, Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico, and colleagues.
The goal of the study was to test the theory that a relative deficiency in L-arginine, which is substance necessary to synthesize the vasodilator nitric oxide, may lead to development of preeclampsia in a high-risk population. At a tertiary public hospital in Mexico City, high-risk pregnant women with a history of preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy or preeclampsia in a first-degree relative were studied from weeks 14 to 32 of gestation and monitored until delivery for development of preeclampsia or eclampsia. (A tertiary hospital provides the highest level of care.) During pregnancy, participants were randomly assigned to receive supplementation with food bars containing L-arginine plus antioxidant vitamins (228 women), antioxidant vitamins alone (222 women), or a placebo (222 women). While receiving the bars, participants had four to eight prenatal visits.
Compared with women receiving placebo, those receiving L-arginine plus antioxidant vitamins had a lower incidence of preeclampsia. The group receiving L-arginine plus antioxidant vitamins also had a lower incidence of preeclampsia than the group receiving antioxidant vitamins alone. Preeclampsia developed in 30.2% of the placebo group, 22.5% of the vitamin-only group, and 12.7% in the L-arginine plus vitamin group.
The take-home message is that taking L-Arginine in addition to a prenatal vitamin might reduce the risk of preeclampsia. L-Arginine is an inexpensive over-the-counter product, which is readily available. Discuss adding it to your daily regimen with your healthcare professional.
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