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Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Nov;94(5):1358-70. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.018580. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Vitamin B-12, folate, iron, and vitamin A concentrations in rural Indian children are associated with continued breastfeeding, complementary diet, and maternal nutrition.

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Hematology Research Unit, Division of Molecular Medicine, St Johns National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India.



Determinants of vitamin B-12, folate, iron, and vitamin A concentrations in young children in rural south Asia are poorly understood. These micronutrients are crucial for the production of hemoglobin and have other important physiologic functions.


We sought to develop explanatory models for concentrations of vitamin B-12, folate, ferritin, and retinol binding protein (RBP) in children aged between 1 and 2 y in rural Karnataka, India.


We performed a cross-sectional study in 12-23-mo-old toddlers who lived in 2 rural districts of Karnataka, India. For each child, data concerning dietary, food-security, and sociodemographic and maternal factors were obtained, and serum vitamin B-12, folate, ferritin, and RBP were measured. Multiple regression and structural equation modeling were applied to determine associations with micronutrient concentrations.


Of 396 sampled children, 254 children (65.6%) had at least one micronutrient deficiency. With the use of multiple regression, continued breastfeeding was independently associated with the concentration of each micronutrient [(log) vitamin B-12: standardized coefficient of -0.30 (P < 0.001); folate: standardized coefficient of +0.20 (P < 0.001); (log) ferritin: standardized coefficient of -0.18 (P = 0.004); (log) RBP: standardized coefficient of-0.21 (P < 0.001)]. Children who continued to breastfeed received less nutrition from complementary foods and belonged to poorer families with higher food insecurity. A structural equation model for children's vitamin B-12 concentrations was developed that highlighted the interrelation between wealth, continued breastfeeding, complementary diet, and vitamin B-12 concentrations in children.


Micronutrient deficiencies are common in this population. Rural Indian children between 1 and 2 y of age who continue to breastfeed should be especially targeted during micronutrient-supplementation programs. This trial was registered in the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry as ACTRN12611000596909.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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