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ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Research Project #436281

Research Project: The Effect of Pregnancy and Lactation on Carotenoid Status and Bioactivity

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

2020 Annual Report

Objective 1: To define the effect of pregnancy and lactation on carotenoid and vitamin A status and markers of bioactivity in diverse healthy weight and obese women. Subobjective 1A: We will define the changes in plasma, skin, and macular (a marker of brain lutein and zeaxanthin) carotenoid status changes over the course of pregnancy and lactation in healthy and obese women. This will allow us to define the dietary, anthropometric, and genetic determinants of carotenoid status. Subobjective 1B: We will determine if carotenoid status is associated with markers of inflammation and cognitive function in pregnant and lactating women. Subobjective 1C: We will define the relationship between maternal and infant carotenoid status at birth and 8 wk in lean and obese mothers. Objective 2: To determine the pharmacokinetic basis for why adiposity affects breast milk carotenoid composition. Subobjective 2A: We will define the plasma and breast milk pharmacokinetics of 2H-labeled lutein and beta-carotene in normal and obese lactating mothers. Subobjective 2B: We will determine the bioavailability of 2H-labeled lutein and beta-carotene from intrinsically-labeled spinach in lactating mothers.

Women with either a pre-pregnancy normal or obese BMI will be recruited in the first trimester of pregnancy. Subjects will undergo a dietary, carotenoid status, body mass and composition, physical activity and sleep, and cognitive function assessments at 24 and 34 weeks of gestation and at 8 weeks post-partum. At the post-natal visit, mothers will participate in the same tests, will be asked to provide a breast milk sample and infant anthropometrics and carotenoid status will be assessed by blood sampling and dermal carotenoid intensity measures. Maternal and cord blood will be collected upon delivery for carotenoid analysis. Through these studies we will determine if maternal carotenoid status changes over the course of pregnancy and if that change can be explained by changes in maternal carotenoid intake and body composition.

Progress Report
This year our team made progress on both Objectives of the project. For Objectives 1 and 2, we prepared the standard operating procedures needed to support both research studies. The standard operating procedure manuals contain the detailed instructions of how to recruit subjects, conduct research visits, collect measurements, store data, and analyze samples. We also went through a series of revisions necessary for the Institutional Review Board approval of the protocols to assure that all procedures were consistent with institutional policies for the ethical conduct of research. We investigated modifications necessary to continue the research in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, including shortening our research visits, conducting visits remotely, recruiting remotely through social media channels, and when in-person measurements are required, establishing procedures for minimizing infection risk to the participants and to the research team. We contributed to a research study on the correlation between a home-cooked meal's "healthy cooking score" and its carotenoid content, finding that a variety of meal types, whether low or high scoring, can be high in carotenoids. We have also focused our efforts on developing a method for the analysis of carotenoids in infant formula and breast milk, and conducted a literature review of what the usual ranges of infant blood and breast milk carotenoid concentrations are. While we were not able to launch recruitment for the study, we were able to do a considerable amount of preparation work to make the conduct of the study even more efficient and effective once we can safely recruit mothers and infants for the studies.