Vitamin E and vitamin E-quinone levels in red blood cells and plasma of newborn infants and their mothers

J Am Coll Nutr. 1996 Feb;15(1):44-8. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1996.10718563.


Objective: Vitamin E is a physiological antioxidant and protects cell membranes from oxidative damage. This study has determined whether vitamin E level in RBC of newborns has any relationship with its level in their mothers. We have also examined levels of vitamin E and vitamin E-quinone, an oxidized product of vitamin E, in paired samples of red blood cells (RBC) and plasma of newborns and their mothers.

Methods: Blood was collected from 26 mothers and their full-term placental cords at delivery. Vitamin E and vitamin E-quinone levels were determined in RBC and plasma by HPLC.

Results: Newborn-plasma had significantly lower vitamin E levels compared with maternal-plasma both when expressed as nmole/ml (5.5+/-0.4 vs 26.1+/-1.1, p = 0.0001) or nmole/mumole total lipids (1.9+/-0.1 vs 2.6+/-0.1, p = 0.0001). Vitamin E level in the newborn-RBC was similar to that of maternal-RBC when expressed as nmole/ml packed cells (2.77+/-0.14 vs 2.95+/-0.13), but was significantly lower when expressed as nmole/mumole total lipids (0.56+/-0.03 vs 0.64+/-0.04, p = 0.03) from that of maternal-RBC. Vitamin E-quinone levels are significantly elevated in newborns compared with their mothers both in RBC (29.4+/-2.1 vs 24.1+/-1.2, p = 0.04) and plasma (39.9+/-5.3 vs 25.3+/-4.2, p = 0.006) when expressed as nmole/mmole total lipids but not when expressed as nmole/ml. There was a significant correlation of vitamin E between newborn-plasma and newborn-RBC (r = 0.65, p = 0.0002 for nmole per ml packed RBC;r = 0.63, p = 0.0007 for nmole per mumole total lipids). The relationship between maternal plasma and newborn plasma was significant when vitamin E was normalized with nmole/mumole total lipid (r = 0.54, p = 0.007 but not when expressed as nmole/ml (r = 0.09, p = 0.64). However, vitamin E in the RBC of maternal and newborn had significant correlation when expressed as per ml packed cells (r = 0.61, p = 0.001) and per total lipid (r = 0.46, p = 0.02). There was no relationship of vitamin E-quinone levels between RBC and plasma of newborns and their mothers.

Conclusions: Elevated blood levels of vitamin E-quinone suggest increased oxidative stress and utilization of vitamin E in newborns compared to their mothers. Because vitamin E levels in RBC of newborns are lower and significantly related to vitamin E levels in RBC of their mothers, an increase in vitamin E supplementation to mothers during pregnancy may increase vitamin E levels in the newborn and help impede the effect of extrauterine oxygen toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Vitamin E / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin E / blood*


  • Vitamin E
  • tocopherylquinone