Serum retinol in 1-6-year-old children from a low socio-economic South African community with a high intake of liver: implications for blanket vitamin A supplementation.

Research paper by Martha E ME van Stuijvenberg, Serina E SE Schoeman, Carl J CJ Lombard, Muhammad A MA Dhansay

Indexed on: 24 Aug '11Published on: 24 Aug '11Published in: Public health nutrition


To assess serum retinol, liver intake patterns, breast-feeding history and anthropometric status in pre-school children of a low socio-economic community where liver is regularly consumed.Cross-sectional study.Northern Cape Province, South Africa.Children aged 1-6 years (n 243) who attended the local primary health-care facility and had not received a vitamin A supplement in the 6 months preceding the study. Non-pregnant female caregivers (n 225), below 50 years of age, were also assessed.Despite stunting, underweight and wasting being prevalent in 40·5%, 23·1% and 8·4% of the children, only 5·8% had serum retinol concentrations < 20 μg/dl, which is in sharp contrast to the national prevalence of 63·6%. None of the caregivers were vitamin A deficient. Liver was eaten by 89·2% of children, with 87% of households eating liver at least once monthly and 30% eating it at least once weekly; liver was introduced into the diet of the children at a median age of 18 months. Ninety-three per cent of the children were being breast-fed or had been breast-fed in the past; children were breast-fed to a median age of 18 months. A significant negative correlation was found between educational level of the caregiver and frequency of liver intake (r = -0·143, P=0·032). There was no correlation between serum retinol and indicators of anthropometric or socio-economic status.The blanket approach in applying the national vitamin A supplementation programme may not be appropriate for all areas in the country, even though the community may be poor and undernourished.