Carotenoid supply in breast-fed and formula-fed neonates

Eur J Pediatr. 2000 Jan-Feb;159(1-2):86-90. doi: 10.1007/pl00013811.


Carotenoids have various biological functions including their role as antioxidants. For humans fruits and vegetables are the only source of carotenoids. In the first months breast milk and/or formula preparations are the only nutrition for infants. To study the influence of nutrition on the plasma carotenoid profile in newborns, breast milk, different formula preparations, and the plasma of breast-fed (BF) and formula-fed (FF) newborns were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. The method used allowed beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, and beta-cryptoxanthine to be detected and all four were found in breast milk. In colostrum carotenoids were up to five times higher than in mature breast milk (P<0.05). In contrast, not all carotenoids could be found in formula preparations. Beta-carotene was detected in four out of eight, and beta-cryptoxanthine in three out of eight formula preparations. Lycopene and alpha-carotene were not detectable in any of the formula preparations. Four formula preparations did not contain any carotenoids. FF infants had different plasma carotenoid profiles compared to BF infants. beta-carotene was significantly lower in FF infants [14 (0-32) microg/l, median and interquartile ranges] than in infants after birth [24 (19-310) microg/l, P<0.05], and BF infants [32 (22-63) microg/l, P<0.05]. While newborns after birth had measurable plasma concentrations of lycopene (16 [14-18] microg/l) and of alpha-carotene [5 (0-8) microg/l), these carotenoids were no longer detectable in FF infants after day 14.

Conclusion: FF and BF infants show significant biochemical differences in plasma carotenoid concentrations.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Carotenoids / analysis*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Colostrum / chemistry
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lycopene
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives
  • beta Carotene / analysis


  • Antioxidants
  • Cryptoxanthins
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene
  • Carotenoids
  • alpha-carotene
  • Lycopene