Maternal Vitamin A Nutriture and the Vitamin A Content of Human Milk

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Abstract

Because of the many functions of vitamin A inhuman physiology, deficiency or excess of the vitamin inlactating women or their infants can adversely affecttheir health. Infants are born with low body stores of vitamin A, and rely on vitamin A inmilk to meet their needs. The vitamin A content of milkis related to maternal vitamin A status and maternaldietary vitamin A intake during lactation. Low-income lactating women in non-industrialized countrieshave lower milk vitamin A concentrations than lactatingwomen in industrialized countries. Supplementation oflactating women in non-industrialized countries with vitamin A or beta-carotene has resulted inincreased milk vitamin A concentrations. However, theoptimal timing and dose for sustaining adequate levelsof vitamin A in milk throughout the lactation period has not been determined. Furtherresearch is needed to understand factors affecting thetransfer of vitamin A to milk, and to evaluate variousstrategies for improving the vitamin A status of mothers and infants.