Carotenoids contribute to a healthy pregnancy

Pregnant women who have low intakes of carotenoids may be at greater risk for developing preeclampsia than those who have adequate carotenoid intakes, say researchers from New York's Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.

Preeclampsia is a disease that occurs in the mother only during pregnancy, and causes high blood pressure, as well as symptoms such as edema (swelling) and protein in the urine.

Doctors found that pregnant women with low-circulating levels of carotenoids were more likely to develop preeclampsia when compared to pregnant women who had normal levels. Researchers tested for levels of alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene and canthaxanthin in maternal, umbilical cord, and placental blood in 22 women with normal pregnancies, and an additional 19 who were already diagnosed with preeclampsia.

Pregnant women who had normal levels of carotenoids were much less likely to develop preeclampsia. The researchers stated, "Our findings suggest that oxidative stress and placental antioxidant levels may play key roles in the development of preeclampsia."

Carotenoids, sometimes called "nature's crayons," are the beautiful pigments in plants: the red in tomatoes and strawberries, the orange in carrots, and the yellow in squash. Women, especially pregnant women, need to eat a diet rich in carotenoids. Unfortunately, most do not eat enough carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

Reference: Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.