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Why Do Children Become Vitamin A Deficient

Miller, Melissa, Humphrey, Jean, Johnson, Elizabeth, Marinda, Edmore, Brookmeyer, Ron, Katz, Joanne
Journal of nutrition 2002 v.132 no.9 pp. 2867S-2880S
World Health Organization, breast milk, children, developing countries, equations, fruits, liver, liver function, morbidity, mortality, nutrient intake, vegetables, vitamin A, vitamin deficiencies, weaning
Vitamin A deficiency is very prevalent and contributes substantially to morbidity and mortality among young children in developing countries. We identify and quantify three causes of vitamin A deficiency in young children based on data available in the literature: maternal vitamin A deficiency resulting in low concentrations of vitamin A in breast milk, inadequate dietary intake of vitamin A during and after weaning and prevalent illness. We developed a set of recursive equations to estimate the amount of vitamin A in the liver as a function of age over the first 2 y of life. To apply the equations, we selected a best estimate value for each input parameter as the most representative of a typical child in a developing country. Because of the great variability that exists for each variable, we also carried out sensitivity analyses, substituting more extreme values for input parameters. We then estimated stores, assuming a child in a developing country also receives the newly revised vitamin A supplementation regimen recommended by the World Health Organization. Without supplementation, a typical child in a developing country is not able to attain and maintain “minimally adequate” liver vitamin A stores. To overcome this deficit by eating fruits and vegetables alone, the child would need to increase portion sizes about 10-fold. If the child receives the new supplementation regimen, his or her liver stores will still be far short of the average American child (i.e., exceedingly far from toxic levels). However, our estimates indicate that the new supplementation regimen will permit a typical child in a developing country setting to attain minimally adequate vitamin A stores during the first 2 y of life.