Folate status and milk folate concentration in lactating women

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Virginia Tech


Lactating women have an increased requirement for folate which contributes to their risk for suboptimal folate status. Although milk folate secretion appears to be maintained independent of folate intake and maternal folate status, studies with animal species have demonstrated a relationship between iron deficiency and impaired milk folate secretion. Objectives of this study were to monitor the folate status of lactating women and to examine the relationship among folate intake, dietary iron, folate status, iron status and milk folate. Seven-day dietary records, milk samples, and blood samples were collected monthly for four months from five lactating women. Dietary iron and folate was analyzed. Milk folate, serum ferritin, serum folate, and red blood cell (rbc) folate concentrations were measured. Mean folate and iron intakes were 495 ± l05μg/d and 24 ± 4 mg/d, respectively. All women had normal rbc folate and serum ferritin values during the study. Milk folate increased (p=.06) from 35± 10 μg/L in month one to 69 ± 30 μg/L in month three. Dietary and rbc folate were not significantly correlated with milk folate. There was a significant positive correlation between milk folate and serum folate (r = .48, p= .04) and between milk folate and iron intake (r=.63, p=.003). Results indicate that the folate intake in this population of lactating women was sufficient to maintain adequate folate stores. Results also suggest a relationship between iron intake and milk folate. Research is needed to determine dietary requirements during lactation and to investigate the relationship between dietary iron and milk folate.



milk, lactation, folate, iron, ferritin