Lack of Vitamin D Causes Preeclampsia During Pregnancy
Pregnant women who are vitamin D deficient have five times the risk of suffering a potentially fatal condition known as preeclampsia, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure combined with elevated protein levels in the urine, and may also cause swelling of the hands and feet. It occurs in approximately 7 percent of all first pregnancies. Preeclampsia can cause generalized damage to the kidneys, liver or blood vessels. More seriously, it can progress into eclampsia, a potentially fatal condition that can cause seizures or severe damage to the blood, kidneys, liver, lungs and nervous system. Eclampsia may be the cause of 70 percent of deaths during pregnancy in Third World countries.
Researchers compared 15 women with preeclampsia with 220 women who had not developed the condition. The majority of the women in both groups were vitamin D deficient, with blood levels lower than 80 nanomoles per liter, but the women with preeclampsia had significantly lower vitamin D levels than the healthy women. When the researchers correlated vitamin D levels with preeclampsia risk, they found that women with blood levels below 37.5 nanomoles per liter had five times the risk of preeclampsia as women who had higher blood levels.
The researchers noted that most of the study participants were taking vitamin D-containing prenatal dietary supplements, and yet most of them were still deficient in the vitamin. While prenatal supplements contain 200 to 400 IU of vitamin D, "experts believe you need to take 1,000 IUs per day to make a dent in increasing your levels," researcher Lisa Bodnar said.
"Vitamin D deficiency remains virtually ignored by conventional medicine," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of The Healing Power of Sunlight and Vitamin D. "The drugs-and-surgery approach to medicine practiced by most doctors today prefers to treat patients with dangerous pharmaceuticals rather than safe, effective and inexpensive nutritional therapies like vitamin D supplementation. The U.S. government worsens the situation with its continued recommendation of low vitamin D intake through its RDA numbers," Adams said. "This situation is inexcusable. Vitamin D supplementation could save millions of lives each year from cancer and other diseases while greatly reducing health care costs."
Beyond taking supplements, vitamin D levels can be increased by exposure to sunlight. As little as 30 minutes of sun on the face and hands daily for darker skinned people can induce the body to synthesize all its required vitamin D, and light-skinned people can achieve the same result in only 15 minutes.