Preeclampsia, and other disorders that cause high blood pressure during pregnancy, account for 76,000 maternal and 50,000 infant deaths each year. (1) According to a new study, women who consume a high fiber diet early in pregnancy can reduce their risk of developing preeclampsia by 70%, when compared to women with the lowest fiber intakes.
The study comes from Dr Chunfang Qiu (Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, Washington) and colleagues, and is reported online July 17, 2008 in the American Journal of Hypertension. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, sudden weight increases, visual changes and headaches. Once the condition develops, it progresses rapidly, and can lead to death. Symptoms usually occur after 20 weeks. Unfortunately, not all women experience symptoms, making pre-natal care essential to detect preeclampsia, and related conditions - toxemia and pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH).
Obesity, family history of Type II diabetes, existing high blood pressure and diets lacking fruits and vegetables are pre-disposing factors that can lead to complications in mid-term to late pregnancy.
The authors say this study “provides additional evidence of reduced preeclampsia risk associated with higher maternal dietary fiber intake in early pregnancy.” They conclude that. “Taken together with previously published literature, [and] if confirmed by other studies, our findings may motivate increased efforts aimed at exploring lifestyle approaches, particularly dietary approaches, to lower the risk of preeclampsia.
The women in this study also experienced lower triglyceride levels, an important factor for cardiovascular health. Both soluble and insoluble fiber was found to be beneficial during pregnancy to prevent preeclampsia. Good dietary sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.
Resources: American Journal of Hypertension
Related: Maternal Vitamin D Deficiency May Increase Risk for Preeclampsia