Vitamin A during lactation: Relationship of maternal diet to milk vitamin A content and to the vitamin A status of lactating rats and their pups

M. E. Davila, L. Norris, M. P. Cleary, A. C. Ross

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We have investigated the effects of maternal vitamin A intake during pregnancy and lactation or during lactation alone on the concentration of vitamin A in rat's milk and on vitamin A levels in plasma and liver of dams and their pups. Groups of Sprague-Dawley rats were fed diets having either a high vitamin A content [15 retinol equivalents (R.E.)/g diet] or a low vitamin A content (0.6 R.E./g) for 42 d, including 7-8 d prior to pregnancy, pregnancy, and for 14 d of lactation. The concentration of vitamin A in milk on d 14 lactation was significantly greater on the high vitamin A diets [114 ± 16 μg/dl (mean ± SEM; n = 8) versus 52 ± 7.3 μg/dl (n = 11), P < 0.005]. However, milk vitamin A concentration on d 1 of lactation did not vary with maternal vitamin A intake during pregnancy. In a second study in which supplementation with vitamin A (30 R.E./g diet) was begun on d 1 postpartum, the milk vitamin A content increased progressively with duration of lactation. Maternal plasma vitamin A concentrations did not differ between rats fed the higher or lower vitamin A diets. However, liver vitamin A concentrations both of dams and of their 14-d-old pups were significantly higher when dams were fed the higher vitamin A diets during pregnancy and/or lactation. The results of these studies indicate that the transfer of vitamin A from mother to offspring by milk and the vitamin A status of dams and their suckling neonates is influenced by maternal vitamin A intake during lactation. This occurs at levels of dietary vitamin A that maintain plasma vitamin A concentrations within the normal range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1033-1041
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1985


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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