A food-based approach introducing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes increased vitamin A intake and serum retinol concentrations in young children in rural Mozambique

Jan W Low, Mary Arimond, Nadia Osman, Benedito Cunguara, Filipe Zano, David Tschirley
Journal of Nutrition 2007, 137 (5): 1320-7
Vitamin A deficiency is widespread and has severe consequences for young children in the developing world. Food-based approaches may be an appropriate and sustainable complement to supplementation programs. Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) is rich in beta-carotene and is well accepted by young children. In an extremely resource poor area in Mozambique, the effectiveness of introduction of OFSP was assessed in an integrated agriculture and nutrition intervention, which aimed to increase vitamin A intake and serum retinol concentrations in young children. The 2-y quasi-experimental intervention study followed households and children (n = 741; mean age 13 mo at baseline) through 2 agricultural cycles. In y 2, 90% of intervention households produced OFSP, and mean OFSP plot size in intervention areas increased from 33 to 359 m(2). Intervention children (n = 498) were more likely than control children (n = 243) to eat OFSP 3 or more d in the last wk (55% vs. 8%, P < 0.001) and their vitamin A intakes were much higher than those of control children (median 426 vs. 56 microg retinol activity equivalent, P < 0.001). Controlling for infection/inflammation and other confounders, mean serum retinol increased by 0.100 micromol/L (SEM 0.024; P < 0.001) in intervention children and did not increase significantly in control subjects. Integrated promotion of OFSP can complement other approaches and contribute to increases in vitamin A intake and serum retinol concentrations in young children in rural Mozambique and similar areas in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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