Increased antioxidant intakes during pregnancy may benefit children’s intellectual development

January 20, 2010

High serum levels of vitamin A and vitamin E in maternal blood and cord blood after delivery benefits children's cognitive and behavior development, says a new study.

In the study, the serum concentrations of antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A, E and C) in maternal blood and cord blood after delivery were determined in 150 mothers and their newborns (1). After a two-year follow-up, the intellectual development of the children was evaluated. The findings showed that children with higher serum levels of vitamin A and E, but not vitamin C, and higher vitamin E transfer rate at delivery had better motor function, language skills and social behavior at two years of age.

There is a large body of evidence that oxidative stress is associated with the development of neurodegenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. In several epidemiologic studies of adults, associations between neurodegenerative disease and reduced intake and blood levels of dietary antioxidants (e.g., vitamins A, C and E, and beta-carotene) have been reported. However, supplementation with such antioxidants has not been consistently associated with an improvement of the cognitive impairment in intervention studies. A possible explanation for the inconsistencies is that increased intakes of dietary antioxidants primarily influence the brain development during a critical period early in life, potentially decreasing the likelihood of neurodegeneration in later life, the researchers suggested. Consequently, intervention studies may not be able to confirm beneficial effects of antioxidant supplementation in adults with already established neurodegeneration.


  1. Chen K. et al. Antioxidant vitamin status during pregnancy in relation to cognitive development in the first two years of life. Early Human Development. 2009; 85:421–427.