Baltimore, MD—Expecting mothers should add vitamin A to their diets as a new study, published in May in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that regular intake of the vitamin at recommended dietary levels before, during and after pregnancy improve lung function in their children.

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the lung capacity of 1,371 rural Nepali children from 2006 to 2008, whose mothers participated in a placebo-controlled trial of vitamin A or beta-carotene supplementation between 1994 and 1997. They performed spirometry on the children to measure the volume and flow of air during inhalation and exhalation and found that those whose mothers received vitamin A instead of beta-carotene or a placebo had a significantly gcontinental vitamin
co.reater forced expiratory volume at one second and greater forced vital capacity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, recommends that pregnant women obtain vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Beta-carotene, a substance found naturally in fruits and vegetables, is less toxic than synthetic vitamin A supplements since large intake of beta-carotene does not cause adverse effects, while excessive consumption of vitamin A can cause birth defects. Pregnant women in the United States are mostly getting sufficient amounts of vitamin A through their diet and the study done by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School concludes that pre-formed vitamin A intake is beneficial for chronically undernourished populations.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, July 2010 (published online ahead of print on May 27, 2010)