Graduation Date

Spring 5-6-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area

First Advisor

Corrine K. Hanson

Second Advisor

Ann Anderson Berry, MD

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Lyden


OBJECTIVE: The main objective of this prospective cohort is to investigate serum levels of vitamin E tocopherol isoforms (specifically alpha and gamma) in mothers and infants admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in relation to infant feeding modality.

METHODS: This was a prospective cohort of 34 mothers and their infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Samples of maternal and cord blood were collected at the time of delivery, and a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) was administered to the mother to measure maternal vitamin E tocopherol intake. After nutrition treatment of each feeding modality had been stable for 72 hours, blood samples were collected from participating infants during the administration. Serum tocopherols were measured in the Biomarker Research laboratory at the Harvard School of Public Health using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Descriptive statistic and Spearman correlation coefficients were calculated. P-value

RESULTS: The mean birth weight was 2738.0 ± 835.7 gm and mean gestational age was 36.7 ± 3.4 weeks. Vitamin E deficiency was present in 64.5% of infants and 41.9% of mothers. No significant correlations were found between gestation age or birth weight and infant α- and γ-tocopherol levels or between maternal and infant serum α- and γ-tocopherol levels. Additionally, no significant correlations were found between maternal serum or maternal intake and α- and γ-tocopherol levels in maternal breast milk samples. No significant difference was found between groups when comparing α- and γ-tocopherol levels of infants after 3 days stable on a feeding modality.

CONCLUSION: There is a high prevalence of vitamin E deficiency in mothers and infants. Further research is needed to identify how to safely raise levels to prevent complications of deficiency in infants.