Vitamin A and anthropometric status of South African preschool children from four areas with known distinct eating patterns

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 2
  • Abstract:

    Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the vitamin A and anthropometric status of South African preschool children from four areas with known distinct eating patterns. Methods: Serum retinol, anthropometric indicators, and dietary intake were determined for randomly selected preschool children from two rural areas, i.e. KwaZulu-Natal (n = 140) and Limpopo (n = 206); an urban area in the Northern Cape (n = 194); and an urban metropolitan area in the Western Cape (n = 207). Results: Serum retinol <20 μg/dL was prevalent in 8.2% to 13.6% children. Between 3% (urban-Northern Cape) and 44.2% (rural-Limpopo) children had received a high-dose vitamin A supplement during the preceding 6 mo. Vitamin A derived from fortified bread and/or maize meal ranged from 65 μg retinol activity equivalents (24%–31% of the Estimated Average Requirement) to 160 μg retinol activity equivalents (58%–76% Estimated Average Requirement). Fortified bread and/or maize meal contributed 57% to 59% of total vitamin A intake in rural children, and 28% to 38% in urban children. Across the four areas, stunting in children ranged from 13.9% to 40.9%; and overweight from 1.2% to 15.1%. Conclusion: Prevalence of vitamin A deficiency was lower than national figures, and did not differ across areas despite differences in socioeconomics, dietary intake, and vitamin A supplementation coverage. Rural children benefited more from the national food fortification program in terms of vitamin A intake. Large variations in anthropometric status highlight the importance of targeting specific nutrition interventions, taking into account the double burden of overnutrition and undernutrition.