Effects of micronutrients on placental function: evidence from clinical studies to animal models.Reproduction. 2018 09; 156(3):R69-R82.R
Micronutrient deficiencies are common in pregnant women due to low dietary intake and increased requirements for fetal development. Low maternal micronutrient status is associated with a range of pregnancy pathologies involving placental dysfunction, including fetal growth restriction (FGR), small-for-gestational age (SGA), pre-eclampsia and preterm birth. However, clinical trials commonly fail to convincingly demonstrate beneficial effects of supplementation of individual micronutrients, attributed to heterogeneity and insufficient power, potential interactions and lack of mechanistic knowledge of effects on the placenta. We aimed to provide current evidence of relationships between selected micronutrients (vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, folate, vitamin B12) and adverse pregnancy outcomes, combined with understanding of actions on the placenta. Following a systematic literature search, we reviewed data from clinical, in vitro and in vivo studies of micronutrient deficiency and supplementation. Key findings are potential effects of micronutrient deficiencies on placental development and function, leading to impaired fetal growth. Studies in human trophoblast cells and rodent models provide insights into underpinning mechanisms. Interestingly, there is emerging evidence that deficiencies in all micronutrients examined induce a pro-inflammatory state in the placenta, drawing parallels with the inflammation detected in FGR, pre-eclampsia, stillbirth and preterm birth. Beneficial effects of supplementation are apparent in vitro and in animal models and for combined micronutrients in clinical studies. However, greater understanding of the roles of these micronutrients, and insight into their involvement in placental dysfunction, combined with more robust clinical studies, is needed to fully ascertain the potential benefits of supplementation in pregnancy.