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Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;93(2):368-73. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.008367. Epub 2010 Dec 15.

Increased vitamin E intake is associated with higher alpha-tocopherol concentration in the maternal circulation but higher alpha-carboxyethyl hydroxychroman concentration in the fetal circulation.

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  • 1Graduate Programs in Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.



The transfer of vitamin E across the placenta is limited, but no data exist on the concentrations of vitamin E metabolites carboxyethyl hydroxychromans (α- and γ-CEHCs) in the fetal circulation.


We measured α- and γ-CEHC concentrations in maternal and umbilical cord blood pairs and examined their relations to circulating vitamin E (α- and γ-tocopherol) and maternal dietary vitamin E intake.


Healthy, pregnant women were enrolled from Oregon Health and Science University's obstetric clinic (<22 wk gestation), and at least one fasting blood sample and a previous day's 24-h diet recall were collected during their pregnancy (n = 19). Umbilical cord blood samples were obtained at the time of delivery and were analyzed for α- and γ-tocopherol, α- and γ-CEHC, and total lipid concentrations.


Mean (±SD) concentrations of umbilical cord blood α-CEHC (30.2 ± 28.9 nmol/L) and γ-CEHC (104.5 ± 61.3 nmol/L) were not significantly different from maternal concentrations (P = 0.07 and 0.08, respectively), but metabolite:tocopherol ratios were significantly higher in cord blood (P < 0.01 and 0.001, respectively). Maternal α-tocopherol:total lipids ratios were correlated with cord blood α-CEHCs (r = 0.67, P = 0.004), and higher vitamin E intakes were associated with higher cord blood α-CEHC concentrations (r = 0.75, P < 0.003).


Higher maternal intake of vitamin E during pregnancy may result in increased metabolite concentrations in the fetal circulation, suggesting increased maternal or fetal liver metabolism of vitamin E. This trial was registered at as NCT00632476.

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