Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Nutrition


Food Science and Nutrition


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Michael R. La Frano

Advisor Department

Food Science and Nutrition

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Background: A significant portion of lactating women in less developed countries have vitamin A (VA) deficiency. Lactation has substantial effects on a mother’s metabolism and VA is known to be needed in multiple biological processes, including growth, vision, immunity, and reproduction.

Objective: The objective of this pilot study was to utilize metabolomics profiling to conduct a broad, exploratory assessment of differences in plasma metabolites associated with low VA status versus adequacy in lactating women.

Methods: Plasma samples from lactating women who participated in a survey in Samar, Philippines, were selected from a cross-sectional study based on plasma retinol concentrations indicating low (VA-; n=5) or adequate (VA+; n=5) VA status (plasma retinol <0.7 or >1.05 µmol/L). The plasma results collected from six metabolomics assays (oxylipins, endocannabinoids, bile acids, primary metabolomics, aminomics, and lipidomics) were compared by group, using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry.

Results: Twenty-eight metabolites were significantly different in the VA- versus VA+ status, with 24 being lipid mediators (p<0.05). The lipid mediators demonstrated lower concentrations of the arachidonic acid- and eicosapentaenoic acid-derived oxylipins, as well as lysophospholipids and sphingolipids, in the VA- group (p<0.05). Chemical similarity enrichment analysis identified HETEs, HEPEs, and DiHETEs as significantly different oxylipin clusters (p<0.0001, false discovery rate (FDR) p<0.0001), as well as sphingomyelins, saturated lysophosphatidylcholines, phosphatidylcholines, and phosphatidylethanolamines (p<0.001, FDR p<0.01).

Conclusions: The multi-assay nutritional metabolomics profiling of low VA status compared with adequacy in lactating women demonstrated reduced lipid mediator concentrations. Future studies with stronger study designs and a large and more diverse population are needed to validate these preliminary results.

Available for download on Monday, August 05, 2024