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Alzate et al.1, conducted a nested case-control study to (quote) “estimate the protective effect from calcium [supplement] alone [CC], compared to calcium plus conjugated linoleic acid [CC+CLA] in nulliparous women at risk of preeclampsia”. Based on a crude analysis of the data in Table 3,1 they concluded that neither CC nor CC+CLA reduced the risk of preeclampsia in the whole sample, but that CC+CLA significantly decreased risk among women 13-18 years old. A quick look analysis of the data in this table shows this conclusion is mostly based on the fact that none of the cases in 13-18 year old women was treated with CC+CLA. Contrary to the authors’ interpretation, this does not point to a protective effect of CC+CLA, it simply indicates that the assumption of positivity has being violated and, consequently, that an effect for this age group cannot be estimated2. In fact, the probability of getting no treated cases in this age-group was 28%, since only 15.5% of all women received CC+CLA. Also, accurate estimates of effect in women 34-45 years old were not possible, because there were only seven women who used CC+CLA in this age group. In spite of the limited sample size, the authors restricted their attention to the apparent protective effect of CC+CLA in 13-19 year old women, while ignoring apparent harmful effects in older women. I estimated age-specific rate ratios (RR) by fitting a saturated conditional complementary log-log3 to the data in Table 3 and found that CC+CLA was protective among women 13-19 (RR= 0.61, 95% CI: 0.41- 0.90), but harmful in women 19-34 (RR= 1.74, 95% CI: 1.21- 2.50) and 35-45 years old (RR= 4.98, 95% CI= 1.74-14.30). Of course, this approach is an improvement over a naive crude analysis, but does not solve the problem of violation and near violation of positivity described above. An overall age-adjusted RR was 1.02 (95% CI= 0.89-1.17; p= 0.756). Thus, this study provides no evidence of a beneficial effect of CC+CLA in preventing preeclampsia in any age group.

Leonelo E Bautista, Department of Population Health Sciences School of Medicine University of Wisconsin at Madison

Leonelo E Bautista, MD, MPH, DrPH
Associate Professor

Bautista, L. E. (2016). Calcium and linoleic acid supplements in the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Colombia Medica, 47(1), 68. https://doi.org/10.25100/cm.v47i1.2250

References

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Received 2016-02-22
Accepted 2016-03-31
Published 2016-03-31