Vitamin E use while Breastfeeding
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Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jun 8, 2020.
Vitamin E Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding
Summary of Use during Lactation
Vitamin E is a normal component of human milk. Maternal obesity, smoking and possibly preterm birth (<37 weeks gestational age) are associated with lower milk vitamin E levels. Lactating mothers may need to supplement their dietary intake of vitamin E to achieve the recommended daily allowance of 19 mg. Daily maternal vitamin E supplementation from prenatal multivitamins can safely and modestly increase milk vitamin E levels and improve the vitamin E status of the breastfed infant compared to no supplementation. Higher daily dosages have not been studied.
Holder pasteurization (62.5 degrees C for 30 minutes) does not reduce milk antioxidant capacity, which is a reflection of vitamin E levels.
Alpha-tocopherol is the major isoform of vitamin E present in the human diet and in breastmilk. Higher alpha-tocopherol milk levels result in greater milk antioxidant capacity. However, the correlation between maternal serum levels and breastmilk levels is unclear. A serum alpha-tocopherol concentration < 12 micromol/L indicates vitamin E deficiency in adults and children. One international unit (IU) = 0.67 mg of the stereoisomer d-alpha-tocopherol (the natural form); 1 IU = 0.45 mg of racemic dl-alpha-tocopherol (the synthetic form).
Maternal Levels. In mothers not taking a vitamin E supplement, average alpha-tocopherol levels in colostrum range from 20 to 50 micromol/L. At 1 to 2 weeks postpartum, milk levels are 7 to 14 micromol/L, and beyond 2 weeks they are 3 to 9 micromol/L. Hindmilk levels are higher than foremilk. Maternal obesity and smoking are associated with lower milk alpha-tocopherol levels. Preterm birth (< 37 weeks gestational age) may also be associated with lower milk levels. In some comparative studies, reported levels range from 1/3 to 2/3 lower in preterm than term milk. Others have not found a difference associated with prematurity.
In a series of prospective studies conducted by the same research group in Brazil, a single supplemental dose of vitamin E given to mothers in the first 48 hours postpartum produced small to modest short-term increases in colostrum and milk levels compared to no supplementation. The best results came from 400 IU of natural vitamin E which increased colostrum levels at 24 hours after the dose by about 60% relative to baseline, compared to a 36% increase from the same dose of synthetic vitamin E. By 7 days after the dose, mothers who received natural vitamin E had milk levels that were no different from baseline, although they were 35% higher than those not given a supplement. A single 110 IU dose of synthetic vitamin E did not significantly change colostrum levels 24 hours after the dose. Based on these studies, one-time doses of 100 to 400 IU vitamin E in the early postpartum period are not likely to improve the vitamin E intake of breastfed infants.
In Tanzania, 320 women with vitamin E deficiency (serum vitamin E levels of approximately 10 micromol/L) were given a daily multivitamin containing 30 mg (45 IU) natural vitamin E during pregnancy and postpartum. Their average milk levels of alpha-tocopherol at 3, 6 and 12 months postpartum were significantly higher (12.5, 11.5 and 10.3 micromol/L, respectively) compared to 306 women not given the multivitamin (10.3, 8.8, and 8.4 micromol/L).
Infant Levels. The average serum level observed in healthy children is 20 micromol/L.
In 306 HIV positive Tanzanian women who were given a daily multivitamin containing 30 mg (45 IU) daily of natural vitamin E starting at 12 to 27 weeks of pregnancy and continuing postpartum, the average serum alpha-tocopherol levels in their exclusively breastfed infants were significantly higher (17 and 15.7 micromol/L, respectively) at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum compared to 288 women not given the multivitamin (15.2 and 14.6 micromol/L, respectively). All the women studied had similar serum vitamin E levels of approximately 23 micromol/L at baseline. The contribution of breastmilk to the higher infant vitamin E levels cannot be determined.
Effects in Breastfed Infants
Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk
Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
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