Pregnant women in Bangladesh with low levels of the most common form of vitamin E are nearly twice as likely to have a miscarriage than those with adequate levels of the vitamin in their blood, according to new research led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The findings, published online last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that improving the diet of women in impoverished nations or encouraging intake of vitamin E through prenatal supplements could have a direct impact on fertility, though more research is needed.
“For nearly a century, we have known about vitamin E and its role in the fertility of animals,” says one of the study’s leaders, Dr. Kerry Schulze, an associate scientist in the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “To our knowledge, this is the first study in humans that has looked at the association of vitamin E and miscarriage. The findings from this study support a role for vitamin E in protecting the embryo and fetus in pregnancy.”
Vitamin E is an important vitamin required for the proper function of many organs in the body. It works as an antioxidant, which means it helps to slow down processes that damage cells. It is found in a variety of foods, though the main source of vitamin E in Bangladesh is believed to be in vegetable oils used in cooking.
The researchers analyzed data from 1,605 rural Bangladeshi pregnant women in the JiVitA-1 study that ran from 2001 to 2007. Blood samples were taken upon enrollment in the first trimester and any miscarriages were recorded on a weekly basis thereafter. Of the 1,605 women in the study, 141 (8.8 percent) subsequently miscarried.