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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Dietary Modulation of Immune Function and Oxidative Stress

Location: Immunity and Disease Prevention Research

Title: Effect of daily consumption of ß-cryptoxanthin-rich tangerines and ß-carotene-rich sweet potatoes on vitamin A and carotenoid concentrations in plasma and breast milk of Bangladeshi women with low vitamin A status

item Turner, Tami
item Burri, Betty
item Haskell, Marjorie
item Jamil, Kazi
item Jamil, Maleka

Submitted to: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/19/2013
Publication Date: 9/4/2013
Citation: Turner, T., Burri, B.J., Haskell, M.J., Jamil, K.M., Jamil, M. 2013. Effect of daily consumption of ß-cryptoxanthin-rich tangerines and ß-carotene-rich sweet potatoes on vitamin A and carotenoid concentrations in plasma and breast milk of Bangladeshi women with low vitamin A status. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 98:1200-1218. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.113.058180.

Interpretive Summary: Vitamin A is an essential nutrient, important for normal growth, development, and eyesight. Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of preventable blindness in the world. Vitamin A can be formed from several carotenoids, including beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. There are many important ongoing projects to prevent vitamin A deficiency, by increasing the amounts of carotenoid-rich foods in the diet. All of these interventions have used beta-carotene-rich foods, such as orange sweet potatoes, mangos, or spinach. Scientists do not know how well beta-cryptoxanthin forms vitamin A in humans. However, recent studies suggest that beta-cryptoxanthin-rich foods, such as tangerines, might be better sources of vitamin A than previously suspected. We compared the effects of eating a food rich in beta-cryptoxanthin (tangerines) to a food rich in beta-carotene (orange sweet potatoes) on the concentrations of carotenoids and vitamin A in the breast milk and blood of lactating women from Bangladesh. We compared the results from these foods to similar groups of women who were given vitamin A supplements, or placebos. Beta-cryptoxanthin increased in blood and breast milk in women fed tangerines. Beta-carotene increased only in the blood of people fed orange sweet potatoes. Vitamin A concentrations in the blood changed most in the vitamin A supplement group, as expected. Breast milk vitamin A also increased most in the group receiving vitamin A supplements. However, breast milk vitamin A concentrations were maintained in the groups fed tangerines or orange sweet potatoes. Our results show that beta-cryptoxanthin from tangerines was better absorbed into blood and breast milk than beta-carotene from orange sweet potatoes. They suggest that tangerines, a food rich in beta-cryptoxanthin, was as good as or better than orange sweet potatoes in maintaining breast milk vitamin A concentrations.

Technical Abstract: Background: The potential of ß-cryptoxanthin-rich foods to form vitamin A (VA) in humans is not well understood. Objective: To measure the effects of consuming ß-cryptoxanthin (CX) and ß-carotene-rich (BC) foods on breast milk and plasma VA and carotenoids in VA deficient lactating women. Design: Subjects were randomly assigned to four groups fed: (1) orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) (12mg BC/d), (2) tangerines (5.3 mg CX/d), (3) VA supplements (0.5mg/d), and (4) placebo capsules in divided doses, 2x/d, 6 d/wk, for 3 wks. Outcomes were changes in breast milk and plasma VA, BC, and CX. Results: Changes in plasma retinol were greatest in the VA group and were not different from the OFSP group. Plasma BC in the OFSP group and CX in the tangerine group increased 250% and 830%, respectively; relative absorption, considering the amounts consumed, was 3x higher for CX than BC. Breast milk VA increased (p=0.002) in the VA group. The OFSP and tangerine maintained milk VA and were not statistically different from the VA group. CX was the only carotenoid to increase significantly in breast milk. Conclusion: Low-dose VA capsules greatly improved plasma retinol and milk VA concentrations after 18 days of treatment, while both carotenoid treatments maintained milk VA concentrations. CX was better absorbed into blood and milk than BC and was as good as or better than BC in maintaining milk VA concentrations.

Last Modified: 06/22/2017
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