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Br J Nutr. 2005 Apr;93(4):549-57.

The effect of dietary vitamin E and fatty acid supplementation of pregnant and lactating ewes on placental and mammary transfer of vitamin E to the lamb.

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Harper Adams University College, Edgmond, Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB, UK.


The present study investigated the effect of maternal vitamin E and fatty acid supplementation on lamb antioxidant status. Forty-eight ewes were fed one of four concentrate diets supplemented with a basal (50 mg/kg) or supranutritional (500 mg/kg) level of vitamin E plus a source of either saturated fat (Megalac; Volac Ltd, Royston, Hertfordshire, UK) or long-chain PUFA (fish oil) from 6 weeks prepartum until 4 weeks postpartum. Blood samples were taken from ewes and lambs at intervals throughout the experiment and, at parturition, muscle, brain and blood samples were obtained from twelve lambs (three per treatment). Colostrum and milk samples were obtained at 12 h and 21 d after parturition, respectively. Supranutritional vitamin E supplementation of the ewe significantly increased concentrations of vitamin E in neonatal lamb tissues although plasma concentrations were undetectable. A significant increase in lamb birth weight resulted from increasing the dietary vitamin E supply to the ewe. Furthermore, maternal plasma, colostrum and milk vitamin E concentrations were increased by vitamin E supplementation, as were lamb plasma concentrations at 14 d of age. Neonatal vitamin E status was not significantly affected by fat source although plasma vitamin E concentrations in both ewes and suckling lambs were reduced by fish oil supplementation of the ewe. Fish oil supplementation reduced vitamin E concentrations in colostrum and milk and the activity of glutathione peroxidase in suckling lambs. The data suggest that the vitamin E status of the neonatal and suckling lamb may be manipulated by vitamin E supplementation of the ewe during pregnancy and lactation.

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