Adequate nutrition is particularly important during pregnancy since it is needed not only for maintaining the health of the mother, but also determines the course of pregnancy and its outcome, fetus development as well as the child’s health after birth and during the later period of life. Data coming from epidemiological and interventions studies support the observation that carotenoids intake provide positive health effects in adults and the elderly population. These health effects are the result of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent studies have also demonstrated the significant role of carotenoids during pregnancy and infancy. Some studies indicate a correlation between carotenoid status and lower risk of pregnancy pathologies induced by intensified oxidative stress, but results of these investigations are equivocal. Carotenoids have been well studied in relation to their beneficial role in the prevention of preeclampsia. It is currently hypothesized that carotenoids can play an important role in the prevention of preterm birth and intrauterine growth restriction. Carotenoid status in the newborn depends on the nutritional status of the mother, but little is known about the transfer of carotenoids from the mother to the fetus. Carotenoids are among the few nutrients found in breast milk, in which the levels are determined by the mother’s diet. Nutritional status of the newborn directly depends on its diet. Both mix feeding and artificial feeding may cause depletion of carotenoids since infant formulas contain only trace amounts of these compounds. Carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin play a significant role in the development of vision and nervous system (among others, they are important for the development of retina as well as energy metabolism and brain electrical activity). Furthermore, more scientific evidence is emerging on the role of carotenoids in the prevention of disorders affecting preterm infants, who are susceptible to oxidative stress, particularly retinopathy of prematurity.
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