Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a major health issue in developing nations affecting greatly pregnant and lactating women. The intake of Vitamin A rich foods highly recommended to reduce the prevalence in these vulnerable groups are greatly influenced by the level of education, geographic origin and differences in food habits.
It has been established that vitamin A content of human milk depends on the mother’s own vitamin A status. In regions with common vitamin A deficiency in lactating mothers, mature human milk typically contains around 1 umol/L vitamin A. The lower levels indicate maternal vitamin A deficiency. This has been demonstrated in both supplementation trials and food fortification trials.
Infants of well nourished and healthy mothers increase their vitamin A stores up to 20-fold from birth to first year of life. In contrast, if the mother’s milk contains 1 umol/L vitamin A, the infant will accumulate no storage vitamin A which would lead to subclinical vitamin A deficiency. A bout of anorexia, illness, or a temporary shortage of foods rich in vitamin A may bring about clinical deficiency.
A study, conducted on the lactating mothers in Ngaoundere, Cameroon, aimed to evaluate the Influence of socio-economic, cultural, geographic origin, and demographic factors on vitamin A (VA) intake.
A total of 100 lactating mothers attending pediatric consultations at four major health structures in Ngaoundere were involved. A questionnaire was used to get information on socio-economic, cultural, demographic factors, geographic origin, anthropometric parameters and culinary practices. Meals potentially rich in Vitamin A consumed by these women were collected using a 24-hour dietary recall method. , their carotenoids contents quantified and VA activity determined.
The study found out that average VA intake of lactating women of Northern origin was significantly (p< 0.05) lower (595.2±60.4μg/day) than that of women of Southern origin (737.6±55.6μg/day), although both were below the recommended intake of 850μg/day. VA intake was also higher in the more educated women. Marital status, number of children, age of the mother and body mass index did not significantly influence the daily VA intake of the women. Lactating women of Northern origin, with three or more children and having no formal education, are more at risk of acute VA Deficiency. Image: UNHCR