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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 Apr;55(4):252-9.

Circulating levels of retinol, tocopherol and carotenoid in Nepali pregnant and postpartum women following long-term beta-carotene and vitamin A supplementation.

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Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health and the Sight and Life Institute, The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To characterize circulating carotenoid and tocopherol levels in Nepali women during pregnancy and post-partum and to determine the effects of beta-carotene and vitamin A supplementation on their concentration in serum.


Randomized community supplementation trial.


The study was carried out from 1994 to 1997 in the Southern, rural plains District of Sarlahi, Nepal.


A total of 1431 married women had an ascertained pregnancy, of whom 1186 (83%) provided an analyzable serum sample during pregnancy; 1098 (77%) provided an analyzable 3-4 months post-partum serum sample.


Women received a weekly dose of vitamin A (7000 microg RE), beta-carotene (42 mg) or placebo before, during and after pregnancy. Serum was analyzed for retinol, alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein + zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin concentrations during mid-pregnancy and at approximately 3 months post-partum.


Compared to placebo, serum retinol, beta-carotene, gamma-tocopherol, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein + zeaxanthin concentrations were higher among beta-carotene recipients during pregnancy and, except for beta-cryptoxanthin, at postpartum. In the vitamin A group, serum retinol and beta-cryptoxanthin were higher during pregnancy, and retinol and gamma-tocopherol higher at postpartum. Lutein + zeaxanthin was the dominant carotenoid, regardless of treatment group, followed by serum beta-carotene. Serum lycopene level was lowest, and very low compared to the US population. Serum retinol was higher, and carotenoid and alpha-tocopherol lower, at postpartum than during pregnancy in all groups.


Pregnant and lactating Nepali women have lower serum carotenoid and tocopherol levels than well-nourished populations. beta-carotene supplementation appeared to increase levels of tocopherol and other carotenoids in this population.

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