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Research shows selenium can reduce pre-eclampsia

By Karen Keast | Date of Posting: 03-12-2013

Professor Tony Perkins and Dr Jessica Vanderlelie

Midwives and pharmacists should encourage pregnant women to use multivitamins with selenium to reduce the incidence of pre-eclampsia, according to new research.

Griffith Health Institute researchers Dr Jessica Vanderlelie and Professor Tony Perkins have discovered selenium, a mineral naturally found in food, is the key to reducing the risk of the most common pregnancy complication, particularly in overweight women.

“Our research has implications for both pregnant women and those responsible for their care,” Dr Vanderlelie said.

“For years women have been provided information regarding the importance of folate to healthy fetal development.

“This work extends this message to encourage
women to obtain their folate and a range of other essential micronutrients through multivitamin supplements, particularly if women are overweight and obese.

“By doing so women may be able to reduce their risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia and also maximise their capacity to nutritionally support their growing baby.”

Pre-eclampsia occurs in pregnant women when a lack of antioxidants coupled with damaged trophoblast cells, which are shed naturally during pregnancy, create a reaction in the woman’s immune system, damaging the placenta.

The condition affects up to eight per cent of pregnancies in Australia and can impact on both the woman and the fetus, and can result in the premature delivery of the baby.

Dr Vanderlelie and Professor Perkins’ research focused on placental trophoblast cells, vital to the creation of the placenta, and which rely on antioxidants.

Dr Vanderlelie said she believed less selenium is now making its way into our vegetables because farmers are not using it in their fertilisers, and she urged women and their health professionals to check their multivitamins contain selenium.

“We know selenium plays an important role because we can actually induce PE in pregnant rats by removing selenium from their diet,” she said.

“Women who are planning to get pregnant, or find themselves pregnant, need to start using a multivitamin with selenium in it as soon as possible.

“The crucial time to prevent PE is at the very start, the first trimester.

“Obese and overweight women are also five times more likely to get PE and multivitamin use appears to bring this back to normal risk levels.”
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