How to Prevent Preeclampsia Part II: Magnesium Reduces Risks

 

Our bodies contain about 25 grams of magnesium, of which about 60% is in our bones, 39% is in our soft tissues, and only a mere 1% is in our blood (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 2018).  Put more simply, 99% of our magnesium is intracellular (inside of our cells). Therefore, it is impossible to identify if a magnesium deficiency exists with typical serum blood work (NIH, 2018).  Even if your magnesium level was normal in your last workup you could still be deficient within your cells and bones (NIH, 2018).  Often when is even more confusing to people is that the deficiency is usually subclinical (which means initially there are no obvious signs).  Magnesium is a vital cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems in the body and it regulates a multitude of processes. Unfortunately, more than half of Americans do not even get the recommended daily amount in their diet.  

“Because of chronic diseases, medications, decreases in food crop magnesium contents, and the availability of refined and processed foods, the vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency” – DiNicolantonio et al., Open Heart Journal, 2018

So how can supplementing with magnesium prevent preeclampsia?  We will be discussing each of these functions of magnesium and connecting them to preeclampsia.(source of list: NIH, 2018)

  1. It regulates blood pressure
  2. It plays a role in the transport of calcium and potassium across cells
  3. It contributes to the development of bones and teeth
  4. It is required for protein synthesis
  5. It is required for production of the antioxidant glutathione
  6. It is required for the breakdown of glucose

(1) Magnesium regulates blood pressure and (2) plays a role in the transport of calcium and potassium across cells

In my previous post, Preventing Preeclampsia Part I: Connecting the K2 Dots, we briefly discussed how there is a disturbance in calcium metabolism in preeclampsia.  Magnesium is vital to proper calcium metabolism because it aids the transport of calcium across cells. According to Rosenoff (2005), healthy blood pressure depends upon a balance of magnesium and calcium at the cellular and whole body levels which means adequate, long-term intakes of nutritional magnesium are required.  A total body magnesium deficiency will result in low blood levels of calcium even if you are consuming plenty of calcium.  

Remember we already know preeclamptic women (when compared to pregnant women without high blood pressure) have significantly lower serum calcium levels (Devi, 2014).  It is likely that low blood calcium levels (but high intracellular calcium levels) found in preeclamptic women are actually due to low magnesium levels, because magnesium is essential for keeping intracellular calcium low.  Indeed, there are a number of studies which demonstrate prenatal high blood pressure is directly related to lack of magnesium.  We must also take into account the high fetal demands for the very same nutrients a woman needs for herself.  If a magnesium deficiency exists, and the baby continues to “take what it needs,” we can reasonably assume that the mother’s deficiency will worsen. DiNicolantonio et al. (2018) corroborate this statement by stating pregnancy can cause magnesium deficiency, and seizures are a sign of severe deficiency.  

Some preeclamptic women will progress to eclampsia (preeclampsia becomes eclampsia when the woman develops seizures).  And what do we get when there is severe magnesium deficiency? Seizures. And what are those women given intravenously to prevent those seizures and maintain a stable blood pressure when in the hospital setting? Magnesium.

Here are the results of just a few studies and reviews which support the benefits of magnesium supplementation during pregnancy to prevent preeclampsia (and other pregnancy complications):

“Magnesium supplementation during pregnancy likely decreases probability of occurrence of many complications of pregnancy.  We believe that using the right dose of magnesium plays a crucial role in the treatment of unwanted pregnancy disorders as well as preventing of preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia” – Tarjan & Zarean, Advanced Biomedical Research Journal, 2017

“Magnesium is involved in the regulation of blood pressure and that the increase in blood pressure in pregnancy could be due to a lack of magnesium.” – Bullardo et al., Gynecology and Obstetrics Journal, 2013

“In summary, four studies from four different countries demonstrate that the supplementation with magnesium during pregnancy reduces the risk of pregnancy induced high blood pressure.” – Rylander, AIMS Public Health Journal, 2015

Unrelated to preeclampsia specifically, but worth including:

“Oral magnesium supplementation seems to be a valuable therapeutic tool in the treatment of pregnancy-related leg cramps” – Berg et al., American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1995

There are many more; but it gets repetitive. Let’s move on.  

(3) Magnesium contributes to the development of bones and teeth (4) and is required for protein synthesis

Magnesium is vital to the development of bones and teeth.  Calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D3, K2, and A also play a role (as we discussed in Part I of this series), but here our focus is magnesium.  

Preeclampsia usually begins at 20 weeks gestation.  So what is the fetus doing at around 20 weeks gestation?  Building the bones and the proteins that comprise their bodies.  

Using amino acids (the building blocks of life) that are delivered to the fetus via the placenta and umbilical cord, the fetus is building itself out of proteins at an incredibly rapid rate.  “To meet the needs of rapid fetal protein synthesis, particularly in skeletal muscle, liver, and gut, amino acids must be supplied at a rate estimated to be between 10 and 60 grams per day per kg fetus”  (Powell et al., 2017). So if the fetus is 6 pounds (2.72 kg), there could be a requirement of 163 grams of amino acids per day. One egg has less than 20 total grams of amino acids (note: grams of amino acids are not the same as grams of protein).  And lets not forget that the mother still must also supply herself with what her own body needs.

The next article in this series will go into amino acid-preeclampsia connection in depth, but for now we simply need to understand that magnesium is required for protein synthesis.  Therefore, a magnesium deficiency can result in a disruption of this process. The fetus will take what it needs even if deficiency exists in the mother, but if deficiency is severe enough, the fetus will be deficient too.  Depletion of maternal magnesium increases her chances of developing preeclampsia or other pregnancy complications.

During fetal development the placenta actively transports calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium (Kovacs, 2011).  Fetal calcium levels suggest that ionized calcium is transferred from the mother to the fetus at a rate of 50 mg per day at 20 weeks of gestation to a maximum of 330 mg per day at 35 weeks of gestation (Institute of Medicine, 1990).  We can assume there is a correlating demand for magnesium since magnesium is required for bone formation. Preeclampsia presents around the same time (20 weeks) that fetal demands for calcium and magnesium increase. Often, the blood pressure continues to rise as the pregnancy progresses (as fetal demands increase) and the woman needs to be admitted to the hospital for intravenous magnesium therapy.  The connection is obvious.

(5) Magnesium is required for production of the antioxidant glutathione and reduces inflammation

Oxidative stress and inflammation of the blood vessels plays a significant role in preeclampsia.  

Glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant (antioxidants counteract oxidative stress) and detoxifier in our body.  The body makes glutathione using amino acids (from proteins that we eat) aided by magnesium. I will be writing a different post specifically about glutathione, but for our purposes know this: studies show that preeclamptic women have low glutathione levels (Chu et al., 2016).  Magnesium deficiency will result in lower than normal glutathione levels, because our bodies need magnesium to make it.

Considering magnesium’s actions on calcium, the widespread inadequate intakes of magnesium, and the large number of reports associating magnesium deficiency with inflammatory and oxidative stress, the role of magnesium as an anti-inflammatory is far reaching (Neilson, 2018).

(6) Magnesium is required for the breakdown of glucose

Recall that one of the risk factors for preeclampsia is diabetes (type 2) or insulin resistance.  In patients who are at risk for diabetes and patients who already have diabetes, magnesium supplementation has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity (Barbagallo et al., 2016).  Perhaps magnesium deficiency plays a role in insulin resistance making insulin resistance a risk factor for preeclampsia when in fact magnesium deficiency is at the root of the issue.   

Also, recall from Part I of this series that inflammation and vascular damage play a role in preeclampsia.  Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) is a major cause of vascular damage. Magnesium helps to prevent high blood sugar levels, and also helps to prevent inflammation.  By doing this, it reduces risk factors for developing preeclampsia.

How much magnesium should you take?

magnesium chart

Chart Source: (NIH, 2018).  

There is no upper limit established for the magnesium obtained from foods.  However there is an established upper limit for magnesium that is obtained from supplements:

mag upper chart

Chart Source: (NIH, 2018)

Most studies on oral magnesium supplementation for pregnant women safely used doses in the range of 100 mg per day to 300 mg per day.  

However, Carolyn Dean, MD/ND and author of the excellent book The Magnesium Miracle disagrees with those recommendations and limits.  She explains that magnesium is very safe so long as there is no medical history that would create a contraindication including kidney failure, myasthenia gravis, bowel obstruction, or an excessively slow heart rate.  She states that if magnesium deficiency exists (as it does for most of us) much higher doses are required (sometimes triple the recommendation).  I personally took 1 gram of magnesium glycinate for about 8 weeks before lowering my dose to a maintenance dose of 200 mg per day, which I still take now.  There are many forms of magnesium. Magnesium glycinate does not cause any gastrointestinal symptoms and is highly bioavailable, so that is my personal preference.

In my opinion . . .

All pregnant women or women who are planning for pregnancy should be supplementing with magnesium, vitamin D3, vitamin A (from cod liver oil), and vitamin K2.  If you are at risk for preeclampsia, or if you have preeclampsia, supplementing these is even more crucial. These nutrients will improve your pregnancy outcomes, improve your overall health, and dramatically reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.  Unless you eat organ meats on the regular basis, you are likely not getting enough Vitamin A. Unless you get at least 20 minutes of sunshine on your totally naked body sans sunscreen (and then do not shower or jump in the pool right afterward), you are likely not getting enough vitamin D.  Unless you eat natto (a disgusting Japanese food with the texture of boogers) or strictly eat only grass fed meat and butter, you are likely not getting enough K2. And even if you are eating lots of dark leafy greens, the magnesium content of our soil is so depleted that you still may not be getting enough magnesium to support your pregnancy.  Eating organic is ideal, but let’s be honest: eating organic is expensive and most of us simply cannot afford it.

The brands I trust for magnesium glycinate are Pure Encapsulations or Dr’s. Best.  The Pure Encapsulations brand pills are easier to swallow.  For my children I use Kal’s Chewable Magnesium Glycinate.  They are orange flavored and my kids love them.  There are many other brands available, but be sure to check into where they are made, if they are tested for purity, or if they contain too many fillers.  

Supplements mentioned in this article:

Magnesium can also be absorbed very well through the skin. Magnesium baths and magnesium sprays are convenient delivery methods. We use these two products in our home. The bulk bag of epsom salt (magnesium salts) goes very quickly and is the best deal I have found.

This post will be updated as I learn new information.

Go ahead and subscribe to stay updated and follow this series, and to get notified of any new articles.  Next we will discuss the supporting evidence for either Vitamin D or amino acid therapy for preeclampsia prevention and treatment.  I haven’t decided which one yet, so it will be a surprise!

If you have any questions or comments, or if you feel it is necessary to correct something that you read here, feel free to do so below. I appreciate any and all of your contributions. If you think this post could help a friend, share it. You just might change their life.

Legal Disclaimer: The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, website links and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics, as well as share personal opinions and experiences. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

References

Berg., G., Dahle, L., Hammer, M., Hurtig, M., & Larsson, L. (1995). The effect of oral magnesium substitution on pregnancy-induced leg cramps. Retrieved from https://www.ajog.org/article/0002-9378(95)90186-8/pdf

Bullardo, M., Kolisek, M., Nestler, A., Nielsen, T., Odman, N., Rylander, R., & Vormann, J. (2013). Magnesium supplementation to prevent high blood pressure in pregnancy: a randomised placebo control trial. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00404-013-2900-2

Chu, K., Huang, Z., Jia, X., Jing, Z., Li, J., Li, X. . . . Wang, J. (2016). Evaluation of glutathione peroxidase 4 role in preeclampsia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027559/

DiNicolantonio, J., O’Keefe, J., & Wilson, W. (2018). Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis.  Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786912/

Institute of Medicine. (1990). Nutrition During Pregnancy: Part I Weight Gain: Part II Nutrient Supplements. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235246/

Kovacs, C. Bone development in the fetus and neonate: role of the calciotropic hormones. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21904825

National Institutes of Health. (2018). Magnesium. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

Nielsen, F. (2018). Magnesium deficiency and increased inflammation: current perspectives. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5783146/

Powell, T., Jansson, T., Vaughan, O., Rosario, F. (2017). Chapter Eight – Regulation of Placental Amino Acid Transport and Fetal Growth. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877117316301132

Tarjan, A., Zarean, E. (2017). Effect of Magnesium Supplement on Pregnancy Outcomes: A Randomized Control Trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5590399/

Rosenoff, A. (2005). Magnesium and hypertension. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15692166

Rylander, (2015). Treatment with Magnesium in Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5690444/

How to Prevent Preeclampsia Part I: Connecting the K2 Dots

We don’t know the exact cause of preeclampsia or eclampsia, and current treatments are only moderately effective. Many women who develop it will deliver preterm. Since is a severe progression of preeclampsia which involves seizures, we will only be using the term “preeclampsia.” Converging evidence suggests that supplementation with certain vitamins, micronutrients, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids could prevent or possibly treat preeclampsia and eclampsia. We will be discussing the evidence that supports each, and make a case for the theory that nutritional deficiencies are the cause, therefore nutritional therapy is the treatment. This post is about Vitamin K2, and future posts will cover the other nutritional therapies.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 (also known as MK-7 and menaquinone) is a little understood and little known vitamin and cofactor. It plays a major role the proper absorption of calcium, the prevention of atherosclerosis, suppressing inflammation caused by oxidative stress, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, increasing insulin sensitivity, and many other processes which we are still uncovering. Right now there isn’t even a test that is used as the “gold standard” method for assessing total Vitamin K status. What we do know, is that most people are not getting enough of it from the foods here in America.
Let us take a look at some of the risk factors and lab values associated with preeclampsia and eclampsia (according to WebMD, 2018) and connect them to K2 deficiency.

Risk Factor #1: Preexisting Protein C or Protein S deficiency

Protein C and Protein S are both Vitamin K dependent proteins. This means that the body requires Vitamin K to be able to activate Protein C and Protein S. Protein C is made primarily in the liver, but 50% of protein S is made in the endothelial cells of the vascular walls (Frannsen et al., 2017). Vitamin K1 activates coagulation factors in the liver, but vitamin K2 activates the vitamin K dependent proteins that exist extrahepatically (outside the liver) (Frannsen et al., 2017). If a vitamin K deficiency exists, than Protein C or Protein S deficiency will also exist. If protein C or protein S deficiency is a risk factor for eclampsia, it is certainly possible then that the root cause is actually vitamin K2 deficiency. 

I was diagnosed with “mild” protien S deficiency after having three miscarriages.  I did not know then what I know now.  I had to take aspirin to be able to maintain the pregnancy.  If I had known better, I would have replenished my K2 before trying again.  I was never tested for K2 deficiency and did not even know it could be a possible cause at the time.  I will be writing about recurrent miscarriage in the near future and will certainly discuss this further.

Another K dependent protein: Matrix Gla Protein

Another vitamin K dependent protein is Matrix Gla Protein (MGP). Vitamin K2 activates MGP, and vitamin K2 deficiency leads to circulation of unactivated MGP. There is clear evidence that it plays a role in calcium balance and the calcification of arteries, which means it inevitably plays a role in the development of high blood pressure. MGP research is still in its infancy, and it seems most of the research being done in the field of cardiology or nephrology. I was unable to find any research on dephospho-uncarboxylated (inactive) MGP levels in preeclamptic women. However, an interesting study conducted just months ago discovered that MGP exists in uterine smooth muscle tissue. In comparison to non-pregnant women, there is more MGP in the uterine tissue of pregnant women (Ackerman et al., 2018). Since uterine contractions utilize calcium, and MGP plays a role in calcium metabolism and is found in uterine tissue, perhaps deficiency in K2 resulting in deficiency of the active form of MGP plays a larger role in preeclampsia or preterm labor? As studies unfold, we shall see.

Risk Factor #2: Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes

According to Chen et al., (2018), vitamin K2 supplementation substantially reduces the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. K2 supplementation increases insulin sensitivity, improves insulin resistance, and reduces inflammation which are all characteristic in Type 2 Diabetes (Chen et al., 2018). Of course, a high carbohydrate diet is the number one contributor to the development of diabetes (Type 2 and gestational), but if K2 supplementation reduces risk, it certainly stands to reason that K2 deficiency would contribute to diabetes development as well.

Risk Factors #3 – #6 Obesity, Advanced Maternal Age, Non-White Race, Chronic Hypertension

Additional risk factors for preeclampsia include obesity(3), advanced maternal age(4), non-white race(5), chronic hypertension(6); all of which are also associated with insulin resistance (Mudd & Weissgerber, 2015). Compared to women who have normal blood pressure during pregnancy, women who develop preeclampsia are more insulin resistant prior to pregnancy, in the first and second pregnancy trimesters, and for years after pregnancy. Since K2 is known to reduce insulin resistance, women who are planning for pregnancy could supplement with K2 to improve insulin sensitivity and thus reduce preeclampsia risk–especially those with a personal or family history of preeclampsia (Mudd & Weissbgerber, 2015).

Vitamin D3 and Calcium levels

According to Devi et al., (2014) the modification of calcium metabolism during pregnancy could be a potential cause of pre-eclampsia. Devi et al. (2017) also state that magnesium metabolism could play a role as well (and I believe it plays a major role) but magnesium will be covered in a later post. Malas (2001) explained that low calcium levels during pregnancy are widely documented and there is a relationship between low calcium levels and high blood pressure during pregnancy. Malas also proposes that calcium supplementation could be used as prophylaxis or treatment for high blood pressure during pregnancy. I disagree. I believe most people do get plenty of calcium in their diets.
I have read quite a lot of conflicting information pertaining to the idea that vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk (and even treats) preeclampsia. I am not convinced that Vitamin D supplementation alone can do this for all preeclamptic women if there is a disturbance in calcium metabolism.

According to Dwarkanath et al. (2017), while there is a correlation between low vitamin D levels and preeclampsia, clinical trials to date have been unable to show an independent effect of vitamin D supplementation in preventing PE. Vitamin D supplementation alone reduces preeclampsia some of the time, but not all of the time.

I am not saying that women with a Vitamin D deficiency should not supplement vitamin D3, I am saying that it is more complicated than that. Without concurrent supplementation of K2, vitamin D does something very scary. It removes circulating calcium and deposits it into the arteries which hardens them and narrows their opening. The hardening of the arteries does not allow for full expansion of those vessels when blood pressure rises, which leads to what we know as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

To be clear, if there is a deficiency in the other fat soluble vitamins A and K2, vitamin D won’t be able to do it’s job. Vitamins A, D, and K work synergistically. In fact, taking only vitamin D increases the body’s demand for both A and K2; and if deficiency in K2 exists then the higher level of Vitamin D accelerates the calcification of the arteries as seen in people with K2 deficiencies. (Rheame-Bleue, 2012).

Further, magnesium activates vitamin D, so if magnesium deficiency exists, that would essentially nullify vitamin D supplementation resulting in higher levels of only the inactive form that does nothing to improve calcium balance or prevent high blood pressure. Remember that I said half of your K2 exists in the vasculature. Vascular K2 holds calcium’s hand and delivers it to where it belongs (mostly the bones), thus preventing calcium from staying in the arteries where vitamin D left it. From there, activated vitamin D will promote proper calcium absorption.

Why does this matter in preeclampsia?

It is important to realize that calcium plays a direct role in vasodilation (the dilation of blood vessels, which decreases blood pressure), though we won’t get into the specific mechanisms here.

In a study on calcium and essential hypertension (high blood pressure in people without a known cause for it), Arifuddin et al. (2012) points out many studies have found significantly elevated intracellular calcium levels in people with high blood pressure, but low serum blood levels. Similarly, preeclamptic women (when compared to pregnant women without high blood pressure) also have significantly low serum calcium levels (Devi, 2014); and not surprisingly, they also have significantly elevated intracellular calcium (Barenbrock, 2000). Coincidence? I think not.

There is clearly a disruption in proper metabolism of calcium, not a calcium deficiency. Bild et al. (1997) confirmed this in a study that concluded “calcium supplementation during pregnancy did not prevent preeclampsia [or] pregnancy-associated hypertension.”

Perhaps K2, vitamin A, and magnesium are indeed the missing links between why vitamin D works sometimes but not all the time to prevent or reduce preeclampsia.

Also concerning is that perhaps for preeclamptic women, vitamin D supplementation without K2 supplementation is contributing to their higher chances of developing cardiovascular disease years later. Again, although some of this data seems to shine a negative light on vitamin D, Vitamin D is not the enemy here. With proper intake of magnesium and A and K2, Vitamin D supplementation is beneficial. I will post more on the benefits of vitamin D (especially the kind we get from sun exposure) for preeclamptic women at a later date.

Placental calcification and uteroplacental arterial blood flow in preeclampsia

At this point you understand that K2 prevents calcification of the vasculature through its actions on calcium itself as well as on vitamin K dependent proteins such as MGP. And we also know that MGP exists in uterine tissue. We have also noted that women with preeclampsia are at significantly increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the future. I propose that preeclampsia does not cause cardiovascular disease, but the mechanisms involved in cardiovascular disease could very well cause preeclampsia. Placental calcification, tissue death, and reduced uteroplacental blood flow are characteristic of preeclampsia. Benson et al. (2018) confirms: “The placenta is a highly vascularized organ, and it is likely that other mechanisms common to vascular calcification [like in atherosclerosis] are involved.”  Is placental calcification similar if not the same as the calcification of cardiovascular arteries?  Yes.  A placental infarct an area of dead tissue due to blocked circulation in the area.  That sounds nearly identical to the definition of a heart attack.  Is a placental infarct like a heart attack for the placenta? It certainly seems that way to me.

“The hallmark placental lesion in preeclampsia is acute atherosclerosis of the decidual arteries.” – Coppage & Sibai, The Global Library of Women’s Medicine, 2008

(Decidual arteries supply blood to the uterus.)

“Atherosclerosis” is a term more commonly heard when talking about heart disease.  Usually we think about atherosclerosis as something that takes a long time to set in.  However, considering the rapid life cycle of the placenta (it grows and dies extremely rapidly through pregnancy then after birth), it is completely logical to suspect that a vitamin K2 deficiency also contributes to the calcification of the placental vasculature (blood vessels) be it placental, the blood flow from the mother to the placenta, or the blood flow from the fetus to the placenta. In fact, in the article titled Placental Vascular Calcification and Cardiovascular Health: It Is Time to Determine How Much of Maternal and Offspring Health Is Written in Stone, Benson et al. (2018) demonstrate the evidence suggests that placental calcification may be linked to inflammation and gestational cardiovascular symptoms; and they emphasize “further investigation is needed to delineate associations between preeclampsia, placental calcification, and vascular calcification in order to evaluate the potential diagnostic value of placental calcification in both acute and long-term cardiovascular health.” I couldn’t agree more. And one strongly supported association that must be investigated is the role of Vitamin K2 in preeclampsia.

Systemic inflammation in preeclamptic women

There are many inflammatory markers, but for the sake of being brief lets just discuss one: Interleukin-6. Don’t let the science sounding name scare you. Put simply, it is a small protein that stimulates an immune response, and the immune response is inflammatory.
According to Basar et al., (2008) “numerous reports indicate that the plasma of preeclamptic patients contains elevated levels of interleukin-6.” A study conducted by Chen, et al. (2012) in which preeclamptic women and healthy women in matching gestational periods revealed:

The levels of interleukin-6 in blood were significantly increased in women with preeclampsia in early onset and late onset preeclampsia compared to healthy pregnant women. In addition, the levels of interleukin-6 were significantly increased in women with severe preeclampsia, but not with mild preeclampsia compared to healthy pregnant women matched for gestational period.

Vitamin K2 plays a role in inhibiting interleukin-6. If vitamin K2 deficiency exists, then the preeclamptic woman is missing an important modulator of her immune system that plays a role in controlling systemic inflammation.

Do you have a K2 deficiency?

But how do you know if you have a K2 deficiency? Right now, there is no one specific K2 test, but high “undercarboxylated calcium” is a biomarker for K2 deficiency. I have never tested myself. In my opinion, since K2 has such an excellent safety profile and has so many benefits, I take it regardless because I know I am not getting enough from my diet. However, if you have a history of preeclampsia, have been recently diagnosed with preeclampsia, or have a family history and are planning a pregnancy, it might be a good idea to check it just for peace of mind.

The best food source for vitamin K that works for me is ghee (clarified butter). The more yellow the butter, the more K2 it contains. It must be from pasture raised/grass fed cows that feed on fast growing grass at peak season. The brand I use after much trial and error is this one: Pure Indian Foods Organic Ghee. You can also buy it from their website: www.pureindianfoods.com.

I could not find any studies that evaluated levels of undercarboxylated osteocalcin (a marker for K2 deficiency) in preeclamptic women. This surprised me, because it seems so obvious that it needs to be investigated. Perhaps no such study has been done? If any of my readers find one or know of one, please email it to me directly.

Finally . . .

Could it be this simple? Could one simple and highly safe vitamin supplement really prevent preeclampsia and save thousands of lives? Could this have been right under our noses all this time? Could vitamin K2 be the one common denominator (the root cause, if you will) among the majority of preeclampsia risk factors? Sure it could. I believe existing studies are demonstrating all the right answers; perhaps they’re just not asking the right question.

An excellent book to read more about K2 is Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life.

Also worth mentioning is that a prenatal vitamin that contains K2 is hard to find. Even the popular Garden of Life and New Chapter brands do not have it. I personally used Garden of Life for both of my pregnancies (unfortunately both were before I knew about the benefits of K2). After an extensive search I found one brand that does include it: Naturelo Prenatal Whole Food Multivitamin. I believe all pregnant women should supplement K2.  Off topic, but I also like that Naturelo’s prenatal has folate from food sources rather than the synthetic form of folic acid. The Vitamin K2 supplement that I personally use is made by YounGlo Research: they are 100 mcg K2 per capsule and I take at minimum two per day. Since K2 is fat soluble, I like that this brand uses coconut oil as a carrier oil. They also smell really good (though I’m not sure why) and are inexpensive compared to other brands. If you get them, you will see what I mean. I also give them to my children at a lower dose to help improve their dental health and overall bone development.  Another product that I use for my daughter who cannot swallow pills yet is Go Nutrients D3/K2 drops.

Again, Vitamin K2 is certainly not the only supplement that could prevent preeclampsia. Please subscribe for free to this blog and stay tuned for my next post, which will be discussing the link between magnesium deficiency and preeclampsia/eclampsia. This is going to be a multi-post series focusing on preeclampsia prevention.

If you have any questions or comments, or if you feel it is necessary to correct something that you read here, feel free to do so below. I appreciate any and all of your contributions. If you think this post could help a friend, share it. You just might change their life.

This article will be updated as I learn new information.

Legal Disclaimer: The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, website links and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics, as well as share personal opinions and experiences. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

References

Ackerman, W., Buhimschi, C., Buhimschi I., Kellert, B., Stetson, B., & Summerfield, T. (2018). Decreased myometrial expression of matrix-Gla protein (MGP) is associated with preterm and term laboring state. Retrieved from https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(17)31915-4/fulltext

Arifuddin, M., Hazari, M., Muzzakar, S., Reddy, V. (2012). Serum calcium level in hypertension. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3503375/

Barenbrock, M., Hausberg, M., Louwen, F., Kisters, K., Kosch, M., & Rahn, K. (2000). Membrane, intracellular, and plasma magnesium and calcium concentrations in preeclampsia. Retrieved from https://watermark.silverchair.com/

Benson, C., Chavkin, N., Chin, M., Frasch, M., & Wallingford, M. (2018). Placental Vascular Calcification and Cardiovascular Health: It Is Time to Determine How Much of Maternal and Offspring Health Is Written in Stone. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6090024/

Bild, D., Catalano, P., Clemens, J., Curet, L., DerSimonian, R., Esterlitz, J. . . . Raymond, E. (1997). Trial of calcium to prevent preeclampsia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9211675

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