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DSM supports new research linking adequate vitamin E intake to reduced risk of miscarriage in humans

Kaiseraugst, CH, 09 Dec 2014 14:00 CET

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that maternal vitamin E status in the first trimester may influence risk of early pregnancy loss1. This is believed to be the first population study of early pregnancy vitamin E nutritional status and risk of miscarriage.  

In rural Bangladesh, which is a typically undernourished population, alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol plasma status was measured in 1605 women. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), alpha-tocopherol accounts for vitamin E activity. 1161 of the women (72.3%) had low-to-deficient vitamin E status defined by a plasma αlpha-tocopherol concentration of <12.0 µmol/L. The most important finding was that women with low alpha-tocopherol concentrations were almost twice more likely to miscarry than women with normal status. Women with low gamma-tocopherol status were also significantly more likely to miscarry than those with higher concentrations.

Vitamin E status is rarely assessed in pregnant women in undernourished populations. The cutoff of plasma α-tocopherol concentration 12.0 µmol/L was proposed to define vitamin E deficiency in normal, healthy adults2. However, to date, there is no consensus on the definition of vitamin E deficiency in pregnant women because αlpha-tocopherol concentrations increase with blood lipids over the course of pregnancy3, 4.

Dr Keith West, lead scientist from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the authors of the new research paper commented: “Micronutrient deficiencies are a public health concern as diets undergo change across diverse cultures.

“Vitamin E deficiency, widely thought not to exist, does - very much so in rural South Asia - and may place mothers at risk of miscarriage. This finding resonates with observed placental failure noted in deficient animals by Evans and Bishop in 19225,which led to the vitamin being named ‘tocopherol’. The term was drawn from the Greek language meaning ‘to bear offspring’.”

The findings show an association between adequate αlpha-tocopherol status and reduced risk of miscarriage in human populations, inviting future study of potential beneficial effects of achieving adequate vitamin E status during pregnancy.

1) Shamim AA, Schulze K, Merrill RD et al. First trimester plasma tocopherols are associated with risk of miscarriage in rural Bangladesh. Am J Clin Nutr 2014;Dedoi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.094920
2) Institute of Medicine (US). Panel on Dietary Antioxidants, and Related Compounds. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids: a report of the Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds, Subcommittees on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients and of Interpretation and Use of Dietary Reference Intakes, and the Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000.
3) Dror DK, Allen LH. Vitamin E deficiency in developing countries. Food Nutr Bull 2011;32:124–43.
4) Brigelius-Flohe´ R, Kelly F, Salonen J, Neuzil J, Zingg JM, Azzi A. The European perspective on vitamin E: current knowledge and future research. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:703–16.
5) Evens HM, Bishop KS; On the Existence of  a Hitherto Unrecognized Dietary Factor Essential for Reproduction; Science 1922 Dec 8;56(1458):650-1