Nancy Lamontagne
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Chicago (June 29, 2024) — People with higher intakes of calcium and zinc in the three months before they conceived were significantly less likely to suffer hypertensive disorders during their pregnancy compared with those who had lower intakes of these essential minerals, according to new research.
The results highlight the importance of focusing on nutrition before conceiving — not only during pregnancy — in order to promote healthy pregnancies.
“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, MD, PhD, 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.”
Lu will present the findings at NUTRITION 2024, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held June 29–July 2 in Chicago.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the most common disorders of pregnancy and can harm both the pregnant person and the developing fetus. Considering the potential adverse effects of antihypertensive medications during pregnancy, researchers have focused on opportunities to prevent dangerous hypertension-related disorders such as pre-eclampsia through modifiable factors like nutrition.
While many people begin focusing on their nutrition after becoming pregnant, the researchers said that a person’s nutritional status before conception is important since it can often take time for the body to correct deficiencies or imbalances.
“The health of women during the preconception period is strongly linked to the pregnancy outcome,” Lu said. “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 researchers conducted two separate studies using data from over 7,700 pregnant women across the U.S. who provided information about their health and diet through a study called the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers-To-Be. One study focused on calcium while the other focused on zinc. The researchers analyzed the association between pre-conception intakes of each mineral and rates of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy after accounting for demographic, lifestyle and health factors that are also related to the risk of hypertension.
The results showed that people in the highest quintile for pre-conception calcium intake were 21% less likely to experience hypertensive disorders during pregnancy compared with those in the lowest quintile. For zinc, participants were divided into quartiles and those with the highest pre-conception zinc intakes were 29% less likely to experience hypertensive disorders during pregnancy than those with the lowest zinc intakes.
As 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. In addition, calcium and zinc are both known to play important roles in metabolic processes related to maintaining the health of blood vessels, providing a plausible biological explanation for the notion that these minerals could help to prevent blood pressure disorders.
Recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggest that women of childbearing age should consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 8 milligrams of zinc daily.

Lu will present this research at 3:24-3:36 p.m. CDT on Saturday, June 29, during the Dietary Micronutrient and Supplementation in Population session in McCormick Place (abstract; presentation details) and at 4:00-4:12 p.m. CDT on Monday, July 1, during the Nutrient Status and Supplementation in Life’s Beginnings session in McCormick Place (abstract; presentation details). Please note that abstracts presented at NUTRITION 2024 were evaluated and selected by a committee of experts but have not generally undergone the same peer review process required for publication in a scientific journal. As such, the findings presented should be considered preliminary until a peer-reviewed publication is available.

About NUTRITION 2024
NUTRITION 2024 is the flagship meeting of the American Society for Nutrition and the premier educational event for nutritional professionals around the globe. NUTRITION brings together lab scientists, practicing clinicians, population health researchers, and community intervention investigators to identify solutions to today’s greatest nutrition challenges. Our audience also includes rising leaders in the field – undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. NUTRITION 2024 will be held June 29–July 2, 2024 in Chicago.

About the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)
ASN is the preeminent professional organization for nutrition research scientists and clinicians around the world. Founded in 1928, the society brings together the top nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition. ASN publishes four peer-reviewed journals and provides education and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice, and education. Since 2018, the American Society of Nutrition has presented NUTRITION, the leading global annual meeting for nutrition professionals.
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