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Public Health Nutr. 2004 Dec;7(8):1055-64.

The nutritional status of asymptomatic HIV-infected Africans: directions for dietary intervention?

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  • 1School of Physiology and Nutrition, Faculty of Health Sciences, North-West University Potchefstroom Campus, Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520, Republic of South Africa. vgehhv@puk.ac.za



To compare the relationships between food (nutrient) intakes and biochemical markers of nutritional status of asymptomatic HIV-infected with HIV-uninfected subjects, to gain more information on the appropriate diet for HIV-infected persons at an early stage of infection.


Cross-sectional population-based survey.


North West Province, South Africa.


Two hundred and sixteen asymptomatic HIV-infected and 1550 HIV-uninfected men and women volunteers aged 15 years and older, recruited as 'apparently healthy' subjects from 37 randomly selected sites.


Food and nutrient intakes, measured with a validated food-frequency questionnaire, and nutritional status indicated by anthropometric and biochemical variables, measured by a standardised methodology.


The prevalence of HIV infection in the study population was 11.9%. The anthropometric indices and nutrient intakes of HIV-infected and uninfected subjects did not differ significantly, indicating that these 216 HIV-infected subjects were at an early stage of infection. Of the biochemical nutritional status variables, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol, haemoglobin, albumin and triglycerides were significantly lower in infected subjects. They also had higher globulin and liver enzyme levels than uninfected subjects. In infected subjects, serum albumin correlated significantly with serum lipids, serum vitamin A, serum vitamin E, serum iron, total iron-binding capacity and haemoglobin. The significant positive correlations of the liver enzymes with serum lipids, albumin, vitamin A and iron, observed in HIV-uninfected subjects, disappeared in the infected subjects. Polyunsaturated fat intake showed significant positive correlations with the increased liver enzymes in infected subjects. A principal components analysis indicated that, in infected subjects, increased liver enzymes correlated with higher consumption of maize meal and lower consumption of meat and vegetables.


This survey indicated that asymptomatic HIV-infected subjects who followed a diet rich in animal foods had smaller decreases in serum albumin, haemoglobin and lipid variables, and smaller increases in liver enzymes, than those who consumed a diet based on staple foods. This suggests that animal foods are associated with improved nutritional status in HIV-infected persons. These results should be confirmed with intervention studies before dietary recommendations for asymptomatic HIV-infected individuals can be made.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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