Zinc plus ß-carotene supplementation of pregnant women is superior to ß-carotene supplementation alone in improving vitamin A status in both mothers and infants

M.A. Dijkhuizen, F.T. Wieringa, C.E. West, Muhilal

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Background: Deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, and zinc are prevalent in women and infants in developing countries. Supplementation during pregnancy can benefit mother and infant. Objective: We examined whether supplementation during pregnancy with iron and folic acid plus beta-carotene or zinc or both improves the micronutrient status of mothers and infants postpartum. Design: Pregnant women (n = 170) were supplemented daily only during pregnancy with beta-carotene (4.5 mg), zinc (30 mg), or both or placebo plus iron (30 mg) and folic acid (0.4 mg) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Micronutrient status was assessed 1 and 6 mo postpartum. Results: Six months postpartum, plasma retinol concentrations were higher in the women who received zinc during pregnancy than in women who did not. Infants born to mothers supplemented with beta-carotene + zinc had higher plasma retinol concentrations, with the frequency of vitamin A deficiency reduced by >30% compared with the other 3 groups. Breast-milk beta-carotene concentrations were higher in all women supplemented with beta-carotene, but breast-milk retinol concentrations were higher only in women who received beta-carotene + zinc. Zinc concentrations did not differ among groups in mothers and infants. Conclusions: Zinc supplementation during pregnancy improved the vitamin A status of mothers and infants postpartum, which indicates a specific role of zinc in vitamin A metabolism. Addition of both beta-carotene and zinc to iron supplements during pregnancy could be effective in improving the vitamin A status of mothers and infants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1299-1307
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2004



  • indonesian infants
  • human-milk
  • retinol
  • iron
  • bioavailability
  • bioefficacy
  • deficiency
  • benefits
  • anemia
  • safety

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