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Could probiotics reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy?

Posted 8 years ago by Jacob in General Health News

The regular consumption of probiotics has been linked in a large study to a reduced risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. A new study undertaken by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found that the regular consumption of milk-based probiotics reduced pre-eclampsia by 20% and severe pre-eclampsia by 39%. The condition affects 2-3% of all pregnancies and is estimated to be responsible for up to 60,000 deaths worldwide each year.

Pre-eclampsia occurs when a mother's blood pressure rises to the hypertensive range, and excretion of protein in the urine becomes too high. It is unknown as to why some expectant mothers suffer from pre-eclampsia, although it is widely thought to be linked to oxidative stress and inflammation. The Norwegian research team believe that the probiotics could confer benefits via two possible routes: one possibility is a local effect on cells surrounding the embryo and another possibility is via an overall effect on inflammation levels. Lead researcher, Dr Anne Lise Brantsaeter noted, "This large observational study indicates an independent protective association between intake of probiotic milk products and pre-eclampsia, especially severe pre-eclampsia, suggesting that probiotics might specifically 'target' and modify the type of inflammation underlying severe pre-eclampsia."

Data was analysed from 33,399 women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. The mothers intake of Lactobacilli probiotics - milk-based - products was monitored using a food frequency questionnaire.  The frequency of pre-eclampsia was determined by monitoring the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry. It was found that supplementing a healthy diet with at least 140ml of probiotic milk daily reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia by 20% and reduced the risk of severe pre-eclampsia by 39%. The research team conluded, "These results suggest that regular consumption of milk-based probiotics could be associated with lower risk of pre-eclampsia in primiparous women."

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Rerefence: Brantsaeter, A. L et al. (2011) Intake of Probiotic Food and Risk of Preeclampsia in Primiparous Women: The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. Published online ahead of print.


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