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Ceylon Med J. 2003 Dec;48(4):114-8.

Nutritional status and productivity of Sri Lankan tea pluckers.

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Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.



To assess the impact of nutritional status on productivity of tea pluckers.


Cross-sectional, analytical. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS OF STUDY: All tea pluckers in five divisions of a tea estate in Hatton.


A dietary survey was conducted using the 24 h dietary recall method. Nutritional status was assessed by measurement of body mass index (BMI) and haemoglobin (Hb) levels, and faeces were examined for helminth ova. The daily weight of tea leaves plucked and the number of days worked by each woman during the preceding month were noted from production records.


Three hundred and four women (mean age 37.8 years, SD 8.4) were examined. The majority (59.9%) had evidence of chronic energy deficiency (BMI < 18.5). Almost all (94.4%) were anaemic (Hb < 13.3 g/dl, altitude adjusted cutoff). Mean daily iron intake was 8.7 mg (SD 2.3 mg), 45.9% of the national recommended dietary allowance. Only 10.1% had hookworm infection, all of light intensity. Multivariate regression analysis showed that dietary iron intake, the number of children and the number of children below 5 years, but not hookworm infection, were independently associated with Hb (p < 0.05). There was a strong positive correlation between monthly productivity and Hb, but not with BMI. Variation in Hb levels accounted for 65% of variation in productivity (adjusted R2 = 0.651).


Most of the study population had chronic energy deficiency and anaemia. Dietary inadequacy of iron is a much more important causative factor than hookworm infection. Productivity was strongly associated with the degree of anaemia but not with BMI.

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