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Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1375-84.

Supplementation with iron and riboflavin enhances dark adaptation response to vitamin A-fortified rice in iron-deficient, pregnant, nightblind Nepali women.

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Program in International Nutrition, Department of Nutritional Biology, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.



Nightblindness affects 16-52% of pregnant women in areas of Nepal and in some cases persists after vitamin A treatment. Iron and riboflavin affect vitamin A utilization and photoreceptor function, respectively, and pilot data in the study population showed a high prevalence of iron and riboflavin deficiencies.


The objective was to assess the effect of supplemental iron and riboflavin on pupillary threshold (PT) and plasma retinol in nightblind, pregnant Nepali women given vitamin A-fortified rice.


Nightblind pregnant women were randomly assigned to receive, 6 d/wk under supervision for 6 wk, a vitamin A-fortified rice curry dish providing 850 microg retinal activity equivalents/d with either a 30-mg Fe and 6-mg riboflavin (FeR + VA) capsule or a placebo control (VA only) capsule. Hemoglobin, erythrocyte riboflavin, and plasma ferritin and retinol were measured before and after the intervention. Dark adaptation was assessed by PT score.


Women who were iron deficient at baseline (n=38) had significantly greater improvement in PT score with iron and riboflavin supplementation than without (P=0.05). Iron and riboflavin supplements significantly reduced the prevalences of riboflavin deficiency (from 60% to 6%; P<0.0001), iron deficiency anemia (from 35% to 15%; P<0.007), and abnormal PT (from 87% to 30%; P<0.05) from baseline. Mean increases in erythrocyte riboflavin (P<0.0001) and plasma ferritin (P=0.01) were greater in the FeR + VA group than in the VA only group.


Iron deficiency may limit the efficacy of vitamin A to normalize dark adaptation in pregnant Nepali women. Further studies are needed to assess the effect of simultaneous delivery of iron and vitamin A for the treatment of nightblindness.

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