Prenatal vitamins strongly urged

Many pregnant women lack iron, magnesium and other important nutrients, according to researchers at the University of Florida. The researchers set out to determine whether nutrient intake from food alone was adequate across three trimesters.

In this study, 63 low-risk pregnant women, all from upper- or middle-income homes, completed three-day diet records each month which were analyzed for nutrient content and trends in eating habits. The researchers found the women’s nutrient intake was insufficient for iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B-6, selenium and vitamin C, in that order, and strongly recommended at least iron supplementation to meet the needs of pregnancy.

In another recent study, UK researchers at the University of Surrey found that low selenium intake was associated with higher risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy. Preeclampsia, a serious condition that occurs in 5 to 8% of all pregnancies, causes high blood pressure, sudden weight gain and headaches. It is a leading global cause of maternal and infant illness and death.

In this study, 53 preeclamptic women and 53 low-risk pregnant women provided toenail clippings for researchers to measure selenium levels. The researchers found that selenium concentrations in the preeclamptic women were significantly lower than in the control group, and that low selenium levels were associated with a greater incidence of preeclampsia. Within the preeclamptic group, lowest selenium levels were significantly associated with severe cases, where delivery occurred before 32 weeks. From these results, the researchers suggested that a small increase in selenium intake might help prevent preeclampsia in susceptible women.

Sources: J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Apr;103(4):461-6; Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Nov;189(5):1343-9