Vitamin A and iron supplementation of Indonesian pregnant women benefits vitamin A status of their infants

Many Indonesian infants have an inadequate nutritional status, which may be due in part to inadequate maternal nutrition during pregnancy. This study was designed to investigate whether infant nutritional status could be improved by maternal vitamin A and Fe supplementation during gestation. Mothers of these infants from five villages had been randomly assigned on an individual basis, supervised and double-blind, to receive supplementation once weekly from approximately 18 weeks of pregnancy until delivery.
Supplementation comprised 120 mg Fe and 500 μg folic acid with or without 4800 retinol equivalent vitamin A. Mothers of infants from four other villages who participated in the national Fe and folic acid supplementation programme were also recruited; intake of tablets was not supervised. Anthropometric and biochemical parameters of infants and their mothers were assessed approximately 4 months after delivery. Infants of mothers supplemented with vitamin A plus Fe had higher serum retinol concentrations than infants of mothers supplemented with Fe alone. However, the proportion of infants with serum retinol concentrations <0·70 μmol/l was >70 % in all groups. Maternal and infant serum retinol concentrations were correlated.
Fe status, weight and length of infants were similar in all groups. Fe status of girls was better than that of boys, but boys were heavier and longer. We conclude that supplementation with vitamin A in conjunction with Fe supplementation of women during pregnancy benefits vitamin A status of their infants. However, considering the large proportion of infants with marginal serum retinol concentrations, it may still be necessary to increase their vitamin A intake.