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Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Mineral Levels in Pregnant Women Linked to Preeclampsia Risk, Study Suggests

Pregnant women with lower concentrations of the trace mineral manganese or higher amounts of the metal cadmium in their blood may be more likely to develop preeclampsia, according to a new study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Preeclampsia is a leading contributor to illness and death for women during and immediately following pregnancy. There are very few ways to prevent the blood pressure-related condition, which has increased in the U.S. by 25 percent over the past two decades.

In the study, published August 20 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers looked at a database of 1,274 Boston-area women who provided blood samples 24 to 72 hours after giving birth. Nine percent of the women had developed preeclampsia, according to their medical records.

Dr. Noel Mueller, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of epidemiology, is the study’s senior author.

For the study, researchers checked red blood cells for five types of trace minerals and heavy metals previously linked with preeclampsia. They found only two had significant associations: manganese and cadmium.

Higher levels of manganese were associated with lower risk for preeclampsia. For cadmium, the higher the level, the higher the risk for preeclampsia.

The association remained for both elements even after researchers adjusted for race, smoking status, and other factors.

No links were found for lead, mercury, and selenium.

Manganese is an essential trace mineral found in whole grains, shellfish, nuts, and other foods. Cadmium is a heavy metal found in cigarette smoke, the atmosphere, and in some foods such as kidney meat. Some agricultural products also acquire cadmium from the soil.

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