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Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2002 Jul;72(4):221-8.

Serum retinol of Chadian nomadic pastoralist women in relation to their livestocks' milk retinol and beta-carotene content.

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Swiss Tropical Institute, P.O. Box, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland.


Human serum retinol and livestock milk retinol levels were assessed as part of a study on the health status of Chadian nomadic pastoralists and their livestock in close partnership between Chadian public health and livestock institutions. Of the examined women (n = 99), 43% were moderately retinol-deficient (0.35 mol/L < x < 0.7 mol/L 95% CI; 33-54%), and 17% severely retinol-deficient (< 0.35 mol/L 95% CI; 10-26%). None of the interviewed women (n = 87) reported the consumption of fruit, and only two of fresh vegetables were reported consumed in the past 24 hours. Milk is the almost exclusive source of vitamin A for these populations. Goats (n = 6) had the highest average milk retinol level (329 +/- 84 micrograms/kg [mean +/- SEM]), followed by cattle (n = 25; 247 +/- 32 micrograms/kg), and camels (n = 12; 120 +/- 18 micrograms/kg). Milk retinol levels did not differ between the rainy and dry seasons. Human serum retinol depends significantly on livestock milk retinol levels (partial slope 0.23; 95% CI: 0.008-0.47). Our study supports the use of goat and cow milk as an important source of vitamin A in pastoral nomadic settings. However, the levels still require to be complemented further by promoting green leafy vegetables, fruits, and supplements.

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