Maintaining a healthy diet is vital for women during pregnancy, but should they begin preparations earlier? Recent research indicates that consuming high levels of calcium and zinc three months before conception can significantly lower the risk of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common complication in pregnancy, that affects the health of both the expectant mother and the developing fetus. It increases the risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth, placental abruption, and cesarean birth.

Since many antihypertensive medications have potential side effects during pregnancy, researchers are exploring preventive measures for hypertension-related disorders.

"Our findings underscore the significance of preconception dietary intake of calcium and zinc in potentially reducing the risk of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. 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," Dr. Liping Lu said in a news release.

The study findings were presented in NUTRITION 2024, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, held in Chicago. The researchers used two separate studies, one involving calcium and the other on zinc, with data involving over 7,700 pregnant women across the U.S. who provided information about their health and diet. They then analyzed the association between pre-conception intakes of each mineral and rates of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy

After accounting for risk factors of hypertension such as demography, lifestyle, and health factors, they found that people in the highest quintile for pre-conception calcium intake were at 24% less risk of developing hypertensive disorders during pregnancy compared with those in the lowest quintile.

Participants were divided into quartiles based on their zinc intake. Those with the highest pre-conception zinc levels were 38% less likely to develop hypertensive disorders during pregnancy compared to those with the lowest zinc intake.

Often people start paying attention to their nutrition after they become pregnant. However, based on their findings, researchers emphasize that nutritional status before conception is crucial as the body takes time to correct deficiencies or imbalances.

"The health of women during the preconception period is strongly linked to the pregnancy outcome. 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," Dr. Liping Lu added.