Vitamin C deficiency linked to preeclampsia

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hypertension

Even a mild deficiency in vitamin C appears to make the pregnancy
complication preeclampsia more likely, according to new research
presented this week.

A mild deficiency in vitamin C appears to harm vascular elasticity and function, a key symptom of the pregnancy complication preeclampsia, according to new research presented this week.

"Research is closing in on this menace,"​ said Dr James M. Roberts, professor and chairman of research in the department of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the Magee-Womens Research Institute and president of the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy. "But there is still much to do,"​ he added.

Every six minutes, a woman dies from the pregnancy complication, that is, nine women an hour, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. The disorder, which is linked to hypertension and affects 3 million women a year worldwide, can be equally devastating for infants.

Carl A. Hubel, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and his colleagues, studied arterial pressure and elasticity in pregnant and non-pregnant rats that, like humans, are unable to synthesise vitamin C.

Dr Hubel's group found that blood vessel stiffness increased in pregnant rats when vitamin C concentrations were restricted. However non-pregnant animals were not similarly affected by vitamin C restriction.

These results were observed despite a natural physiologic change initiated by pregnancy that typically increases blood vessel elasticity, which in turn affects blood pressure.

While researchers have long known that vitamin C concentrations are decreased in women with preeclampsia, the specific effect on vascular function remains unclear, according to Dr Hubel, also an investigator with the Magee-Womens Research Institute.

Women who have previously experienced preeclampsia, also known as toxemia and characterised by high blood pressure, swollen ankles and the presence of protein in the urine, have an even greater chance of developing the disorder in subsequent pregnancies. Other risk factors include maternal age of less than 25 or more than 35 years and preexisting hypertension, diabetes or kidney disease.

"Preeclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal, foetal and neonatal disability and death,"​ said Dr Roberts.

Scientists from the Magee-Womens Research Institute and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine presented the study at the 13th World Congress of the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy.

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