Influence of breast-feeding on the restoration of the low serum concentration of vitamin E and beta-carotene in the newborn infant

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1986 May;154(5):1014-7. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(86)90740-4.


Vitamin E and beta-carotene are two important natural antioxidants. However, the mean (+/- SD) serum concentrations of beta-carotene in the cord blood of term (17.9 +/- 4.4 micrograms/dl) and preterm (14.04 +/- 4.7 micrograms/dl) infants are one eighth the concentration in the maternal serum (131 +/- 43 micrograms/dl). Likewise the serum concentrations of vitamin E in the term (0.31 +/- 0.09 mg/dl) and preterm (0.29 +/- 0.08 mg/dl) infants are one-third the concentration in the maternal serum (0.97 +/- 0.16 mg/dl). Human breast milk, particularly colostrum, contains very high concentrations of both vitamin E (3.28 +/- 2.93 mg/dl) and beta-carotene (213 +/- 166 micrograms/dl). Thus the breast-fed, term infant attains serum levels of both vitamin E and beta-carotene comparable to those in the adult within 4 to 6 days of breast-feeding. This study shows that the seeming barrier in the fetus to access to the antioxidants vitamin E and beta-carotene, in rapidly corrected and the substances are replenished postnatally through breast-feeding. This study therefore alludes to the possible role of breast-feeding in providing for the infant's defense against oxygen toxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Carotenoids / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / analysis
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant Food / analysis
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Vitamin E / blood*
  • Vitamin E / physiology
  • beta Carotene


  • Antioxidants
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids