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Vitamin D & Preeclampsia Connection

There’s been a lot of news about vitamin D lately– how it functions like a hormone, how important it is and how many of us are deficient in it. Now a study shows a possible link between low vitamin D levels and early onset preecclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by a sudden rise in blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can become serious if not treated and treatment usually involves delivery of the baby.

Early onset preeclampsia is uncommon–2-3 % of pregnancies are affected– but it’s responsible for about 15% of premature births annually. “Early onset” means before the 34th week of pregnancy.

Experts think we need to look into this connection more closely– if there is one, it may help explain why African American women are more prone to preecclampsia.

People with darker skin need a lot more sun exposure to get the vitamin D they need.  Dark-skinned women from very sunny climates who now live in colder places or who cover all of their skin throughout the year (for religious or other reasons) may not be getting enough vitamin D. Research has shown that African Americans are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than fair-skinned Americans.

Speaking to Reuters, Dr. Christopher J. Robinson, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston said:

“It is biologically plausible that the vitamin could affect preeclampsia risk. Vitamin D acts as a hormone, and lab research has found that it may affect the regulation and function of proteins in the placenta; problems in the development of the placenta are believed to be at the roots of preeclampsia.”

In the current study, a 10 ng/mL increase in vitamin D reduced the chance of early onset preeclampsia by 63%.

These days the recommendation is that pregnant women get anywhere from 200 to 400 IU of vitamin D per day. Prenatal vitamins contain 400 IU.

But the recommendations are being reevaluated due to the current spate of research. Robinson thinks women should continue with this daily intake until we know more.

Maybe it makes sense to evaluate each woman’s vitamin D needs based on climate/sun-exposure, complexion and BMI (obesity can prevent vitamin D absorption) in addition to everything else.

photo: erkillian5/Flickr

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