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Menaquinone-4 in breast milk is derived from dietary phylloquinone

  • H. H. W. Thijssen (a1), M.-J. Drittij (a1), C. Vermeer (a2) and E. Schoffelen (a3)

The effect of maternal phylloquinone supplementation on vitamin K in breast milk was studied to establish: (1) if phylloquinone is the source of menaquinone-4 in breast milk; (2) the dose–effect relationship between intake and obtainable levels. Four groups of lactating mothers with a full-term healthy infant participated and took oral phylloquinone supplements of 0·0 (n 8), 0·8 (n 8), 2·0 (n 8), and 4·0 (n 7) mg/d for 12 d, starting at day 4 post-partum. Milk samples were collected on days 4, 8, 16, and 19. Blood samples were collected on days 4 and 16. Vitamin K and vitamin E concentrations, the latter for reason of comparison, were assayed. Phylloquinone and menaquinone-4 were present in all milk samples: 5·84 (SD 2·31) AND 2·98 (sd 1·51) nmol/l (n 31) respectively, in colostrum (day 4 sample). A strong correlation between the vitamers was found (r 0·78, P<0·001). Breast-milk phylloquinone levels were raised in a dose-dependent manner: 4-, 12-, and 30-fold on day 16 for the 0·8, 2·0, and 4·0 mg group respectively. In addition, menaquinone-4 levels were higher: 2·5- (P<0·05) and 7-fold (P<0·001) in the 2·0 and 4·0 mg groups respectively. Plasma of supplemented subjects contained 3-, 5-, and 10-fold higher phylloquinone levels on day 16. Detectable menaquinone-4 was found in ten of thirty-one day 4 plasma samples. All day 16 plasma samples of the 4 mg supplemented group contained the vitamin. There was no correlation between the K-vitamers in plasma. Vitamin E and phylloquinone appear to differ in their distribution in breast milk, milk:plasma concentration ratios were ≤1 and 3–5 for vitamin E and phylloquinone respectively. The milk:plasma concentration ratio of menaquinone-4 was >10. In conclusion, dietary phylloquinone is a source of menaquinone-4 in breast milk. Phylloquinone supplementation to lactating mothers may be of benefit to the newborn infant, since both phylloquinone and menaquinone-4 are raised by supplementation.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr H.H.W. Thijssen, fax +31 43 388 41 49, email
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British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
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