The relationship of dietary vitamin A transfer from mother to fetus is not well understood. The difference in swine offspring liver reserves was investigated between single-dose vitamin A provided to the mother post-conception compared with continuous provitamin A carotenoid dietary intake from biofortified (enhanced provitamin A) orange maize (OM) fed during gestation and lactation. Vitamin A-depleted sows were fed OM (n = 5) or white maize (WM) + 1.05 mmol retinyl palmitate administered at the beginning of gestation (n = 6). Piglets (n = 102) were killed at 0, 10, 20, and 28 d after birth. Piglets from sows fed OM had higher liver retinol reserves (P < 0.0001) and a combined mean concentration from d 10 to 28 of 0.11 ± 0.030 μmol/g. Piglets from sows fed WM had higher serum retinol concentrations (0.56 ± 0.25 μmol/L; P = 0.0098) despite lower liver retinol concentrations of 0.068 ± 0.026 μmol/g from d 10 to 28. Milk was collected at 0, 5, 10, 20, and 28 d. Sows fed OM had a higher milk retinol concentration (1.36 ± 1.30 μmol/L; P = 0.038), than those fed WM (0.93 ±1.03 μmol/L). Sow livers were collected at the end of the study (n = 3/group) and had identical retinol concentrations (0.22 ± 0.05 μmol/g). Consumption of daily provitamin A carotenoids by sows during gestation and lactation increased liver retinol status in weanling piglets, illustrating the potential for provitamin A carotenoid consumption from biofortified staple foods to improve vitamin A reserves. Biofortified OM could have a measurable impact on vitamin A status in deficient populations if widely adopted.
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