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Calcium and zinc are keys to a healthier pregnancy

Recent research has revealed some interesting findings about pregnancy. People with high intakes of calcium and zinc during the three months before they conceived were significantly less likely to develop hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.

It’s not just about what you eat during pregnancy, but also what you consume before conceiving.

Meet the scientist: Liping Lu, MD, PhD

Meet Liping Lu. She led this intriguing research while she was a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University. Currently, she serves as an assistant professor at Ball State University.

She stresses on the significance of preconception dietary intake of calcium and zinc in lowering the risks of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.

Lu points out, “Higher intakes of zinc and calcium before conception, derived from diet and supplements, are both associated with lower risks.”

This significant revelation is set to be presented at NUTRITION 2024, the annual conference of the American Society for Nutrition, held in Chicago.

Understanding hypertension and pregnancy

Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, is one of the most frequently occurring disorders during pregnancy, potentially impacting both the pregnant individual and the developing fetus.

The prospect of adverse effects of antihypertensive medications during pregnancy stresses the need to investigate preventable factors, such as nutrition, to combat hypertension-related disorders like pre-eclampsia.

Focused nutrition is often considered only after pregnancy confirmation. However, Lu argues that nutritional status preconception is crucial since it can take considerable time for the body to correct deficiencies or imbalances.

Role of pre-conception nutrition

“The health of women during the preconception period is strongly linked to the pregnancy outcome,” Lu affirmed.

“Adequate nutrient or mineral stores in the body prior to conception can ensure optimal nutrient status for conception and support the early stages of fetal growth and development.”

The research was conducted separately for calcium and zinc using data from over 7,700 pregnant women across the U.S who shared their health and dietary information through the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers-To-Be.

Zinc, calcium, and healthy pregnancy

Individuals with higher pre-conception calcium intake were 24% less likely to suffer from hypertensive disorders during pregnancy compared to those with the lowest calcium intake.

The same trend was observed with zinc, where the highest pre-conception zinc intakes resulted in a whopping 38% less likelihood to experience hypertensive disorders during pregnancy as opposed to those with minimal zinc intake.

While these observational studies do not essentially prove causation, the results align with related studies linking higher intakes of these minerals to a decreased risk of hypertension-related illnesses outside of pregnancy.

Calcium and zinc are known to play important roles in metabolic processes related to maintaining the health of blood vessels.

This offers a plausible biological explanation for the hypothesis that these minerals could help prevent blood pressure disorders.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend that women of childbearing age should consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 8 milligrams of zinc daily.

So, for anyone considering motherhood, it’s never too early to start focusing on a nutrient-rich diet — for your health and the health of your future child.

Future of preconception care

Liping Lu’s pioneering research opens the door to a broader discussion on the importance of preconception care.

As more studies highlight the significance of nutrition and lifestyle choices prior to pregnancy, healthcare providers and would-be parents alike are encouraged to think proactively about health well before conception.

This paradigm shift towards preconception health could have far-reaching implications, potentially reducing the incidence of hypertensive disorders and other pregnancy-related complications.

By advocating for preconception nutritional counseling and supporting further research in this area, we can pave the way for healthier pregnancies and brighter futures for both parents and their children.


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