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Ecohealth. 2012 Jun;9(2):113-21. doi: 10.1007/s10393-012-0781-7. Epub 2012 Jul 24.

Retinol assessment among women and children in sahelian mobile pastoralists.

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Centre National de Nutrition et de Technologie Alimentaire du Ministère de la Santé Publique au Tchad, N'Djamena, Chad.


Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread in developing countries, particularly in remote communities such as mobile pastoralists. The nutritional and vitamin A status of this population is not well-documented in Chad. This study assessed serum retinol levels among women and children under five-year-old in nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralist and rural-settled communities, who are similarly exposed to risk factors such as gastrointestinal parasitic infection, anaemia and emaciation. The novel method of portable fluorometry was used for the first time to measure β-carotene and retinol levels in a pastoral nomadic area. Moderate level blood retinol deficiency (<0.7 μmol/L) was observed in 5% (CI 1-11) of nomadic, 29% (CI 13-45) of semi-nomadic and 22% (CI 8-35) of sedentary women. In children, 1% (CI 0.1-4), 17% (CI 9-25) and 28% (CI 18-39), respectively, had moderate level blood retinol deficiency. In nomadic communities, women and children had blood retinol levels close to normal. Deficiency of retinol was strongly linked with lifestyle (nomadic, semi-nomadic and settled) among women and lifestyle and age among children. The results support an ecological linkage between human retinol levels and livestock milk retinol. This study shows the feasibility of portable retinol and β-carotene measurement in human blood as well as human and animal milk under remote field conditions, but the approach requires further validation.

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