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Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Nov;80(5):1299-307.

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

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  • 1Division of Human Nutrition and Epidemiology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands.



Deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, and zinc are prevalent in women and infants in developing countries. Supplementation during pregnancy can benefit mother and infant.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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