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HIV-Positive Women Should Avoid Vitamin A, Beta-carotene Supplements During Pregnancy

August 25, 2010: 11:53 AM EST
HIV-positive women who breastfeed should avoid vitamin A (retinol) and beta-carotene supplements because they could increase the flow of the virus in breast milk and dangerously boost the risk of the child acquiring the infection, two placebo-controlled U.S. studies suggest. Transmission of HIV through breastfeeding occurs because breast milk contains viral particles that are ingested by the infant, researchers said. Vitamin A and beta-carotene seem to increase virus levels in the milk. In a second study, the researchers found that the same nutrients increase the risk of developing subclinical mastitis, an inflammation that causes blood plasma to leak into mammary glands and viral particles to then leak into the milk.
Eduardo Villamor, et al., "Effect of Vitamin Supplements on HIV Shedding in Breast Milk", American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 25, 2010, © American Society for Nutirion
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