Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency

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European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2004) 58, 1342–1349. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601973 Published online 31 March 2004

Vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia among school-aged children in Southeastern Asia

V Singh1 and K P West Jr1

1Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

Correspondence: KP West, Jr, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Human Nutrition, Room W2505, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. E-mail: kwest@jhsph.edu

Guarantor: KP West Jr.

Contributors: VS studied the literature, calculated estimates and wrote the paper. KPW conceptualized the problems, guided the analyses and contributed to writing the paper.

Received 18 July 2003; Revised 10 November 2003; Accepted 1 December 2003; Published online 31 March 2004.

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Abstract

Objective: To determine provisional estimates of the extent of vitamin A (VA) deficiency and xerophthalmia among school-aged children.

Design: Literature search of published, unpublished and website-based population survey and study reports, with country-specific imputation of prevalence rates and numbers of children affected by: (1) VA deficiency based on measured or imputed distributions of serum retinol concentration <0.70 mumol/l (equivalent to <20 mug/dl) and (2) xerophthalmia, by country.

Setting: Countries within the WHO South-East Asian Region.

Subjects: The target group for estimation was children 5–15 y of age.

Interventions: None.

Results: The estimated prevalence of VA deficiency is 23.4%, suggesting that there are approx83 million VA-deficient school-aged children in the region, of whom 10.9% (9 million, at an overall prevalence of 2.6%) have mild xerophthalmia (night blindness or Bitot’s spot). Potentially blinding corneal xerophthalmia appears to be negligible at this age.

Conclusions: VA deficiency, including mild xerophthalmia, appears to affect large numbers of school-aged children in South-East Asia. However, nationally representative data on the prevalence, risk factors and health consequences of VA deficiency among school-aged children are lacking within the region and globally, representing a future public health research priority.

Keywords:

vitamin A deficiency, xerophthalmia, night blindness, Bitot’s spots, school-aged children, South-East Asia

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