Worldwide pre-eclampsia accounts for 40,000 maternal deaths a year and can trigger premature birth which is extremely dangerous for the child. A Cochrane Review of trials found that taking calcium supplements during pregnancy is a safe and cheap means of reducing the risk of pre-eclampsia.
This conclusion is published in an updated Cochrane Review and by including new data the Review Authors have modified their conclusions from pointing to the possibility of benefits, to a conclusive decision.
“We found no evidence of adverse effects, but we do need more research to find the ideal dosage of calcium,” says lead Review Author Prof Justus Hofmeyr, who works at the East London Hospital Complex, in South Africa.
This line of enquiry started after the chance observation that Mayan Indians in Guatemala have a low incidence of pre-eclampsia. One aspect of their lifestyle is that they soak their corn in lime before cooking and consequently have a high calcium diet. Similarly pre-eclampsia rates in Ethiopia are low – again a culture that has a high calcium intake. One theory is that high calcium levels in the blood stream may help muscles surrounding blood vessels to relax –which would tend to reduce blood pressure.
“The reduction in pre-eclampsia, and in maternal death or severe morbidity, support the use of calcium supplementation, particularly for those with low dietary intake”, says Hofmeyr.
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