Planning motherhood? Getting the right nutrients, with a higher intake of calcium and zinc three months before conceiving can help avoid dangerous blood pressure disorders such as preeclampsia during pregnancy, finds a study.

The study by US researchers highlights the importance of focusing on nutrition before conceiving — not only during pregnancy — as it can often take time for the body to correct deficiencies or imbalances.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the most common disorders of pregnancy and can harm both the pregnant person and the developing foetus. Taking antihypertensive medications during pregnancy may also cause potential adverse effects on the growing foetus. Thus, the researchers focused on opportunities to prevent preeclampsia via modifiable factors like nutrition.

“Our findings underscore the significance of preconception dietary intake of calcium and zinc in potentially reducing the risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy,” said Liping Lu, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University and is now an Assistant Professor at Ball State University.

“Higher intakes of zinc and calcium before conception, derived from diet and supplements, are both associated with a lower risk of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.”

The researchers based the findings on two separate studies — one focused on calcium and the other on zinc — using data from over 7,700 pregnant women across the US.

Women in the highest quintile for pre-conception calcium intake were 24 per cent less likely to experience hypertensive disorders during pregnancy compared with those in the lowest quintile.

For zinc, those with the highest preconception zinc intakes were 38 per cent less likely to experience hypertensive disorders during pregnancy than those with the lowest zinc intakes.

As for observational studies, Lu noted that the results do not necessarily prove causation. However, the findings align with other studies that have linked higher intakes of the two minerals with a lower risk of hypertension-related diseases outside of pregnancy.

The findings will be presented at NUTRITION 2024, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held June 29-July 2 in Chicago.

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