, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 30-38

Red palm oil in the maternal diet increases provitamin A carotenoids in breastmilk and serum of the mother-infant dyad

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Abstract

Background Despite vitamin A supplementation programs, vitamin A deficiency in children remains a public health concern in Honduras. Aim of the study We investigated the effectiveness of short-term dietary supplementation of mothers with red palm oil as a strategy for improving the vitamin A status of the mother-infant dyad. Methods Lactating mothers in Colonia Los Pinos, a barrio of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, consumed a total of 90-mg β-carotene as red palm oil (n = 32) supplements (n = 36) or placebo (n = 18) in six equal doses over 10 days. Carotenoids and retinol in maternal and infant serum, and breastmilk carotenoids and retinol were measured before and after supplementation. Maternal diet was evaluated by 24-hour recall. Results Maternal serum α-carotene and β-carotene concentrations were increased 2 fold by palm oil compared with 1.2 fold by β-carotene supplements. Changes were significantly different in infant serum α-carotene but not β-carotene among the three experimental groups. Increases in breastmilk β-carotene were greater for the palm oil group (2.5 fold) than for the β-carotene supplement group (1.6 fold) and increases in milk α-carotene concentrations (3.2 fold) were slightly greater than those of β-carotene. There were also small but significant changes among groups in breastmilk lutein and lycopene. Breastmilk retinol was not significantly different among the groups over the treatment period. Conclusions Red palm oil in the maternal diet increases provitamin A carotenoids in breastmilk and serum of the mother-infant dyad. The use of dietary red palm oil to improve the vitamin A status of this population should be further investigated.

Received: 24 August 2000, Accepted: 12 January 2001