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Br J Nutr. 2012 Oct 28;108(8):1341-5. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100688X. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

The influence of active and passive smoking during pregnancy on umbilical cord blood levels of vitamins A and E and neonatal anthropometric indices.

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Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Box 593, 75124 Uppsala, Sweden.


Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to be detrimental for the developing fetus. The effects of active and passive maternal smoking on umbilical cord serum levels of vitamin A and vitamin E were examined. Secondary measures included anthropometric parameters in the newborn. Maternal and umbilical cord serum levels of vitamins A and E were measured at delivery. The mothers were assigned to three groups: non-smoking (n 12); passive smoking (n 13); active smoking (n 18). Based on multivariate linear regressions, active smoking during pregnancy was associated with increased umbilical cord serum levels of vitamin A and vitamin E. While enhanced circulating levels of vitamin A in cord blood were also found in non-smoking mothers exposed to tobacco smoke during pregnancy, those of vitamin E were not influenced. Further, an inverse association between smoking behaviour during pregnancy and birth length was observed, with shortest length in active smokers followed by passive smoking mothers. Active and passive maternal smoking behaviour during pregnancy increases the fetal demand for antioxidant compounds in order to counteract the oxidative burden by cigarette smoke. Against this background, the observed increase in umbilical cord serum levels of vitamins A and E may subserve antioxidative processes in response to tobacco smoke-induced oxidative stress. This would reduce the availability of vitamins A and E for fetal maturation, which is critical inasmuch as both compounds are indispensable for the developing fetus. However, due to the cross-sectional nature of our observation, this line of reasoning definitely requires validation in cause-effect experiments in the future.

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