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 beta-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 alpha-carotene and beta-carotene concentrations were increased 2 fold by palm oil compared with 1.2 fold by beta-carotene supplements. Changes were significantly different in infant serum alpha-carotene but not beta-carotene among the three experimental groups. Increases in breastmilk beta-carotene were greater for the palm oil group (2.5 fold) than for the beta-carotene supplement group (1.6 fold) and increases in milk alpha-carotene concentrations (3.2 fold) were slightly greater than those of beta-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.