Background/aims: Low blood Se levels have been previously shown in normal pregnancies (third trimester) and significantly lower levels in patients with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), in Finland and in Chile, suggesting that a low or marginal dietary availability of Se may contribute to the pathogenesis of this disease. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a temporal change in plasma concentration of Se, and seasonal fluctuations in plasma concentrations of Se, Zn and Cu, could coincide with changes in the prevalence of ICP.
Methods: A cross-sectional cohort study was done including 21 ICP patients, 98 women in the third trimester of a normal pregnancy, 29 non-pregnant women, and also 13 individuals (seven non-pregnant women and six men) who had been studied 9 years before. Plasma Se, Zn and Cu were measured by atomic spectroscopy. Plasma Se levels in the present study were compared to the results obtained 5 to 7 years before, employing identical methodology in similar population samples.
Results: Plasma Se concentrations in non-pregnant women were higher than in the previous study: 1.43+/-0.34 micromol/l vs 0.85+/-0.13; p<0.001. In comparison to non-pregnant women, normal pregnancies near term had lower plasma levels of Se: 1.08+/-0.25 micromol/l; p<0.01, and Zn: 17.90+/-3.61 micromol/l vs 19.71+/-3.21; p<0.05, but higher plasma levels of Cu: 34.35+/-7.12 micromol/l vs 20.62+/-3.34; p<0.01. In normal pregnancies, plasma Se concentration was significantly higher in summer (1.34+/-0.19 micromol/l) than in the other seasons, while Zn and Cu diminished. Similar to previous studies, ICP patients had significantly lower Se plasma levels than normal pregnancies: 0.94+/-0.12 micromol/l, p<0.05, and Cu levels were significantly higher: 50.80+/-7.02 micromol/l, p<0.01. Cu plasma levels correlated with the biochemical severity of the disease. Zn did not change in ICP.
Conclusions: The present study shows that the decrease in the prevalence of ICP in Chile during the last decade coincides with an increase in plasma Se levels. Its lower incidence during summer coincides with a higher plasma Se concentration in summer than in other seasons, as observed in normal pregnancies.