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Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;29(1):119-23. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2009.08.001. Epub 2009 Aug 27.

Serum concentration and dietary intake of vitamins A and E in low-income South African elderly.

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Institute of Sustainable Livelihoods, Vaal University of Technology, Private Bag X021, Vanderbijlpark 1900, South Africa.



Adequate dietary intake of antioxidants is vital for the promotion of health, well being and longevity of the elderly. This study assessed the prevalence of vitamin A (retinol) and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) deficiency in a population of low-income South African elderly.


Serum vitamin A and vitamin E concentrations were determined in 235 persons aged 60-93 years in Sharpeville, South Africa. Dietary assessment was done using 24-h recall. Weight and height were measured to determine body mass index.


The mean and standard deviation of serum levels in the elderly were 1.41+/-1.4 micromol/L for vitamin A and 2.1+/-1.1 mg/l for vitamin E. The proportion with deficient serum vitamin A was 28.2% and 26.5% for men and women respectively and 20.5% and 20.9% respectively for deficient vitamin E concentrations. Almost one-third of the subjects consumed less than 100% of the Estimated Average Requirement for both vitamins. Mean vitamin A intake was 426+/-666 microg in men and 368+/-811 microg in women, mean vitamin E intake for men and women was 5.4+/-5.2 microg and 4.0+/-0.5 mg respectively. The predominant macronutrient consumed was carbohydrate. No relationship existed between biochemical and dietary intake parameters of vitamins A and E.


These findings indicate poor dietary intake and high prevalence of vitamins A and E deficiency among this elderly population. Sustainable community-based interventions are needed to address this nutritional vulnerability in this community.

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