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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016;56(3):494-511. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2013.783550.

Analyzing B-vitamins in Human Milk: Methodological Approaches.

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a USDA, ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center , Davis , California , USA.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. However, there is insufficient information about the concentration of nutrients in human milk. For some nutrients, including B-vitamins, maternal intake affects their concentration in human milk but the extent to which inadequate maternal diets affect milk B-vitamin content is poorly documented. Little is known about infant requirements for B-vitamins; recommendations are generally set as Adequate Intakes (AI) calculated on the basis of the mean volume of milk (0.78 L/day) consumed by infants exclusively fed with human milk from well-nourished mothers during the first six months, and the concentration of each vitamin in milk based on reported values. Methods used for analyzing B-vitamins, commonly microbiological, radioisotope dilution or more recently chromatographic, coupled with UV, fluorometric and MS detection, have rarely been validated for the complex human milk matrix. Thus the validity, accuracy, and sensitivity of analytical methods is important for understanding infant requirements for these nutrients, the maternal intakes needed to support adequate concentrations in breast milk. This review summarizes current knowledge on methods used for analyzing the B-vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and pantothenic acid, vitamin B-12, folate, biotin, and choline in human milk, their chemical and physical properties, the different forms and changes in concentration during lactation, and the effects of deficiency on the infant.


B-vitamin deficiency; Human milk; chromatographic analyses; infant nutrient requirements; microbiological assays

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