Pre-eclampsiaHow does vitamin D work?

Both 1,25-(OH)2D and birth weight are low in preeclampsia.

A study in Mexico found: “maternal and umbilical cord serum levels of insulin like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and 1,25-(OH)2D were significantly (P < 0.01) lower in the preeclampsia group than in the normotensive group. In addition, maternal and umbilical cord serum IGF-I correlated significantly (P < 0.05) with weight and length at birth only in the preeclampsia group.”1.

Thus, one effect may be regulation of IGF-I levels. Another likely effect is a number of effects on the metabolic system and cardiovascular system, including lowering blood pressure. Vitamin D also has immunomodulation effects that could play a role2.

Vitamin D has been suggested to affect the balance between T helper (Th1) and (Th2) type cytokines by favouring Th2 domination. One study reported:

We investigated the association between infant vitamin D supplementation and later pre-eclampsia, a disorder suggested to be dominated by Th1 response. We used data on 2969 women born in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 of whom 68 (2.3%) had pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy. Risk of pre-eclampsia was halved (OR 0.49, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.26-0.92) in participants who had received vitamin D supplementation regularly during the first year of life and this association was not affected by adjustment for own birth order, birth weight, gestational age, social class in 1966 and hospitalizations or pregnancy-induced hypertension of their mothers. Together with earlier observations on a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes after vitamin D supplementation, these data suggest that vitamin D intake in infancy may affect long-term programming of the immune response pattern3.

It also appears that renin and angiotensin II peptide levels are elevated in the placenta of women with preeclampsia, leading to vasoconstriction of fetal chorionic villi and reduced maternal-fetal oxygen exchange and fetal nutrition4. Vitamin D is thought to regulate the renin-angiotensin- system5.

Page last edited: 03 May 2011


  1. Halhali, A. Tovar, A. R. Torres, N. Bourges, H. Garabedian, M. Larrea, F. Preeclampsia is associated with low circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor I and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D in maternal and umbilical cord compartments. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 May; 85 (5): 1828-33.
  2. Hypponen, E. Vitamin D for the prevention of preeclampsia? A hypothesis. Nutr Rev. 2005 Jul; 63 (7): 225-32.
  3. Hypponen, E. Hartikainen, A. L. Sovio, U. Jarvelin, M. R. Pouta, A. Does vitamin D supplementation in infancy reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia?. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Sep; 61 (9): 1136-9.
  4. Anton, L. Merrill, D. C. Neves, L. A. Diz, D. I. Corthorn, J. Valdes, G. Stovall, K. Gallagher, P. E. Moorefield, C. Gruver, C. Brosnihan, K. B. The uterine placental bed Renin-Angiotensin system in normal and preeclamptic pregnancy. Endocrinology. 2009 Sep; 150 (9): 4316-25.
  5. Forman, J. P. Williams, J. S. Fisher, N. D. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and regulation of the renin-angiotensin system in humans. Hypertension. 2010 May; 55 (5): 1283-8.