Intralipid - an IV infusion of primarily soy fatty acids - has been shown to reduce miscarriage rates when given prior to, and during, early pregnancy but until recently the mechanism of action has been unclear. A 2007 study - published in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology - has established at least one of the ways in which intralipids helps: by reducing natural killer cells (NK cells). Natural killer cells have been found to be higher in many women with recurrent pregnancy loss and therapies which reduce NK cell levels are known to improve success rates.
This study (1) compared the effectiveness of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) - which are commonly and controversially used to help women recurrent pregnancy loss - against the effectiveness of intralipids and soluble human leukocyte antigen (sHLA)-G. The study sought to discover which method suppressed natural killer (NK) cells most efficiently.
Two hundred and seventy five women who had experienced recurrent pregnancy losses had their blood samples analyzed for NK cell activity and the samples were exposed - in vitro - to the three treatments. The results of the study showed that NK cells were equally well suppressed by all three methods concluding that:
"Intravenous immunoglobulin, intralipid and sHLA-G suppressed NK cell cytotoxicity with equal efficacy in an in vitro assay."
This is good news for women with recurrent miscarriage who may want to pursue treatment with intralipids to avoid the costs and possible risks of IVIg. By comparison, intralipids are extremely inexpensive and easy to administer in a local infusion center and unlike IVIg intralipids are not a blood product. A separate study on the efficacy of intralipid treatment (2) stated that:
"It can be hypothesized from the human clinical trial data that Intralipid even in small doses could be an effective antiabortion treatment."
"Intralipid was highly effective in preventing abortion in mice, and protection was prolonged."
"The evidence suggests that Intralipid might be an effective treatment for human recurrent miscarriages"
Intralipid does contain a tiny amount of egg which may be an issue for women with severe egg allergies. Although no studies have been done to date on other similar IV oil-based products, it is possible that other intravenous solutions such as 'ClinOleic' may have a similar effect, without the egg. This product is primarily made from olive oil which if you have a severe egg allergy may be worth asking your physician about. Another similar product is 'SMOFlipid20%' which is a fish oil based IV product. Intralipid - or similar products - need to be prescribed by a physician and administered at an infusion center.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT intended to diagnose, offer medical or nutritional treatment or replace medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a suitably qualified physician or dietitian.
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1. Am JReprod Immunol. 2007 Apr;57(4):262-9. Natural killer cell functional activity suppression by intravenous immunoglobulin, intralipid and soluble human leukocyte antigen-G. Roussey RG, Ng SC, coulam CB.
2. Am J Reprod Immunol. 1994 Dec;32(4):290-3. Intralipid as treatment for recurrent unexplained abortion? Clark DA.