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J Nutr. 2016 Sep;146(9):1783-92. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.233700. Epub 2016 Jul 27.

Short-Term Daily Consumption of Provitamin A Carotenoid-Biofortified Maize Has Limited Impact on Breast Milk Retinol Concentrations in Zambian Women Enrolled in a Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial.

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Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD;
Tropical Diseases Research Centre, Ndola, Zambia; and.
Program in International and Community Nutrition, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA.
Program in International and Community Nutrition, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA



Provitamin A carotenoid-biofortified maize is a conventionally bred staple crop designed to help prevent vitamin A deficiency. Lactating women are a potential target group, because regularly eating biofortified maize may increase vitamin A in breast milk-a critical source of vitamin A for breastfeeding infants.


We assessed whether daily consumption of biofortified orange maize would increase the retinol concentration in the breast milk of Zambian women.


Lactating women (n = 149) were randomly assigned to receive orange maize delivering 600 μg retinol equivalents (REs)/d as carotenoid plus placebo (OM), low-carotenoid white maize plus 600 μg REs/d as retinyl palmitate (VA), or white maize plus placebo (WM). Boiled maize (287 g dry weight/d) was served as 2 meals/d, 6 d/wk for 3 wk. We measured initial and final breast milk plasma retinol and β-carotene concentrations, and plasma inflammatory protein concentrations.


Groups were comparable at enrollment, with an overall geometric mean milk retinol concentration of 0.95 μmol/L (95% CI: 0.86, 1.05 μmol/L); 56% of samples had milk retinol <1.05 μmol/L. Median capsule and maize intake was 97% and 258 g dry weight/d, respectively. Final milk β-carotene did not vary across groups (P = 0.76). Geometric mean (95% CI) milk retinol concentration tended to be higher in the OM [1.15 μmol/L (0.96, 1.39 μmol/L)] and VA [1.17 μmol/L (0.99, 1.38 μmol/L)] groups than in the WM group [0.91 μmol/L (0.72, 1.14 μmol/L); P = 0.13], and the proportion of women with milk retinol <1.05 μmol/L was 52.1%, 42.9%, and 36.7% in the WM, OM, and VA groups, respectively (P-trend = 0.16).


Daily biofortified maize consumption did not increase mean milk retinol concentration in lactating Zambian women; however, there was a plausible downward trend in the risk of low milk retinol across intervention groups. This trial was registered at as NCT01922713.


biofortification; milk; provitamin A; retinol; vitamin A

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