Comparing local fruits and vegetables and β-carotene supplements as a vitamin A source for honduran mothers and infants

Douglas L. Taren, Rina G. Kaminsky, Jackeline Alger, Monica Mourra, Rahul Mhaskar, Louise M. Canfield

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Background To evaluate the feasibility of fruits and vegetables as a longterm strategy to combat vitamin A deficiency we compared the effects of dietary levels of local fruits and vegetables, an equivalent amount of β-carotene supplements and placebo on serum vitamin A concentrations of lactating mothers and infants in a periurban community in Honduras. Methods Mothers and their nursing infants were randomly assigned to receive β-carotene supplements, foods high in β-carotene or placebo three times/wk for four wk. Each treatment day, mothers in the supplement group received 7.5 mg β-carotene beadlets with a breakfast of local foods providing ~8 g fat. The placebo group received the same breakfast without the supplement. Mothers in the food group received lunch furnishing 7.5 mg β-carotene from local foods. Mothers and infants donated blood samples on days 1, 14 and 30. Milk samples were obtained at days 1 and 30 and maternal dietary intake was estimated by 24-hour dietary recalls on days 1, 14 and 30. Results Local foods high in β-carotene resulted in significant increases in maternal and infant serum retinol compared to the other two treatment groups. Increases in serum retinol of mothers and infants following β-carotene supplements were not significantly different from placebo. β-Carotene supplements increased maternal serum and milk concentrations but did not increase infant serum β-carotene levels. Conclusions Foods in the local diet increased circulating retinol levels of both mothers and infants. The importance of including food-based approaches in strategies to combat vitamin A deficiency is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBeta Carotene
Subtitle of host publicationDietary Sources, Cancer and Cognition
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781617281457
ISBN (Print)9781607416111
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


  • Deficiency
  • Infant nutrition
  • Lactation
  • Vitamin A
  • β-carotene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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