Higher maternal plasma β-cryptoxanthin concentration is associated with better cognitive and motor development in offspring at 2 years of age

Jun S. Lai, Shirong Cai, Bee Lan Lee, Keith M. Godfrey, Peter D. Gluckman, Lynette P. Shek, Fabian Yap, Kok Hian Tan, Yap Seng Chong, Choon Nam Ong, Michael J. Meaney, Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Birit F.P. Broekman, Mary F.F. Chong

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Current literature on the roles of α-, β-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin in neurocognitive function has largely focused on preventing cognitive decline in older people, and less on neuro-development in children. We examined the relations of maternal plasma carotenoids concentrations with offspring cognitive development up to age 4.5 years in the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes mother–offspring cohort study. Methods: Maternal plasma α-, β-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin concentrations at delivery were determined by ultra-performance liquid chromatography. Children’s cognition was assessed at ages 2 (Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development) and 4.5 (Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test) years. Associations were examined in 419 mother–offspring pairs using linear regressions adjusting for key confounders. Results: Median and interquartile range of maternal plasma concentrations (mg/L) were: α-carotene 0.052 (0.032, 0.081), β-carotene 0.189 (0.134, 0.286), and β-cryptoxanthin 0.199 (0.123, 0.304). In 2 years old children, higher maternal carotenoids [per standard deviation (SD) log-concentration] were positively associated with neurocognitive functions: β-cryptoxanthin with higher scores in cognitive [β = 0.18, (0.08, 0.28) SD], receptive language [β = 0.17 (0.07, 0.27) SD], fine motor [β = 0.16 (0.05, 0.26) SD], and gross motor [β = 0.16 (0.06, 0.27) SD] scales; β-carotene with higher cognitive score [β = 0.17 (0.05, 0.29) SD]. No significant associations were observed with neurocognitive functions at age 4.5 years. Conclusion: Our study provides novel data suggesting a potential role of prenatal carotenoids, particularly β-cryptoxanthin, on early offspring cognitive and motor development. Whether the prenatal influences sustain beyond early childhood requires further investigation in longer term studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-714
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Carotenoids
  • Children
  • Cognition
  • Motor
  • Pregnancy

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