Selenium and manganese can help pregnant women protect their children from high blood pressure, study finds

Photo (c) Peter Dazeley - Getty Images

Researchers say having higher levels of these minerals can benefit long-term heart health

A new study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health explored how certain minerals during pregnancy may impact children’s health. 

According to their findings, having higher levels of selenium and manganese during pregnancy was associated with better blood pressure outcomes for children. The team found that maintaining healthy levels of these minerals may protect against high blood pressure long term.  

“These results suggest that healthy levels of selenium and manganese in mothers’ diets during pregnancy may protect their children against developing high blood pressure,” said researcher Noel Mueller, Ph.D. “This work highlights the importance of nutrition and environmental exposures in the womb for a child’s cardiovascular health and, as we continue this research further, could eventually lead to updated nutritional guidance and environmental regulations aimed at preventing disease.” 

Setting kids’ up for healthy blood pressure

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from nearly 1,200 mothers and their children enrolled in the Boston Birth Cohort. The team evaluated mothers’ blood samples during pregnancy and paid close attention to levels of certain minerals and toxic metals. The researchers later measured the children’s blood pressure when they were between the ages of three and 15.

The study revealed that higher levels of selenium and manganese during pregnancy were linked with lower childhood blood pressure. Selenium was linked to the lowest blood pressure readings; the study showed that kids’ systolic blood pressure declined by more than six points each time their mothers’ selenium levels doubled. Comparatively, doubling manganese levels during pregnancy was associated with lowering systolic blood pressure by nearly three points. 

Though manganese appeared to have a milder effect on kids’ blood pressure, the researchers found that it was more powerful in protecting against the potentially harmful effects of toxic metals -- specifically cadmium.

The researchers explained that cadmium levels tend to be higher when women smoke or are frequently exposed to smoke. This study found that manganese can be effective at masking the consequences of cadmium; higher levels of manganese were linked to lower childhood blood pressure readings when women smoked or were exposed to the metal during pregnancy. 

For women interested in incorporating more of these minerals into their diets during pregnancy, the team recommends eating traditionally healthy foods like fish, whole grains, leafy vegetables, nuts, and oatmeal. 

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