Avoid vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland compare beta carotene to vitamin A.

First, the details.

  • The population studied included rural Nepali children 9 to 13 years of age.
  • Theirs mothers had received vitamin A or beta-carotene supplementation between 1994 and 1997 as part of another study.

And, the results.

  • Of 1894 children who were alive at the end of the original study, 88% were eligible to participate in the follow-up study.
  • Tests of lung function (spirometry) in children whose mothers had received vitamin A had a forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) and a forced vital capacity (FVC) that were significantly higher than those of children whose mothers had received placebo.
    • FEV1 (a measure of resistance to air movement out of the lung) was 46 mL higher with vitamin A.
    • FVC measures the amount of air you can exhale with force.
  • Children whose mothers received beta-carotene had FEV1 and FVC values similar to those of children whose mothers taking placebo.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “In a chronically undernourished population, maternal repletion with vitamin A at recommended dietary levels before, during, and after pregnancy improved lung function in offspring.”

Others have reported benefits to the fetus from vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy.

And in studies of animals, vitamin A has been shown to upregulate genes necessary for fetal lung growth and increase surfactant production.

The differences between beta-carotene and vitamin A are discussed here.

6/14/10 19:48 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.