Background: Dietary factors have been suggested to play a role in the prevention of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP), including gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia, but inconsistent findings have been reported. A systematic review and meta-analyses were performed to synthesize evidence from observational studies of reproductive-aged women on the association between dietary factors and HDP.
Methods: MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched to identify studies published until the end of May 2014. Studies were included if they were observational studies of reproductive-age women and reported results on dietary factors (energy, nutrients, foods or overall dietary patterns, alone or in combination with dietary supplements) and gestational hypertension and/or pre-eclampsia. Studies were excluded if they reported on supplements not in combination with dietary intake, or examined a biomarker of dietary intake. Random effects meta-analyses were performed on calculated weighted mean differences (WMD) of dietary intake between cases and non-cases, and effect estimates were pooled.
Results: In total, 23 cohort and 15 case-control studies were identified for systematic review, of which 16 could be included in the meta-analyses. Based on meta-analyses of cohort studies, unadjusted energy intake was higher for pre-eclampsia cases (WMD 46 kcal/day, 95% confidence interval (CI) -13.80 to 106.23; I2= 23.9%, P = 0.26), although this was not statistically significant. Unadjusted intakes of magnesium (WMD 8 mg/day, 95% CI -13.99 to -1.38; I2= 0.0%, P = 0.41) and calcium (WMD 44 mg/day, 95% CI -84.31 to -3.62, I2= 51.1%, P = 0.03) were lower for the HDP cases, compared with pregnant women without HDP. Higher calcium intake consistently showed lower odds for HDP after adjustment for confounding factors (OR = 0.76, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.01, I2= 0.0%, P = 0.79). A few studies examining foods and dietary patterns suggested a beneficial effect of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables on pre-eclampsia, although not all the results were statistically significant.
Conclusions: Based on a limited number of studies, higher total energy and lower magnesium and calcium intake measured during pregnancy were identified as related to HDP. Further prospective studies are required to provide an evidence base for development of preventive health strategies, particularly focusing on dietary factors during pre-pregnancy and early pregnancy.