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Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Dec;51(12):864-9.

Vitamin A and vitamin E statuses of preschool children of socioeconomically disadvantaged families living in the midwestern United States.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Iowa State University, Ames 50011, USA.



To determine the vitamin A and vitamin E statuses of socioeconomically disadvantaged preschool American children.


Cross-sectional study of preschool children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families.


Central Iowa, USA.


A group of 77 apparently healthy children was studied with the following characteristics: 5 mo-6 y; 37 males, 40 females, 56 non-Hispanic Caucasians, 3 Hispanics, 18 Afro-Americans.


Modified relative dose response (MRDR) test for vitamin A status assessment; serum retinol, alpha-tocopherol, cholesterol, and carotenoids; weight for age.


Although the mean weight for age was the 53rd percentile of the NCHS standard, a significant number of children (P = 0.006, chi(2)) were either markedly underweight or overweight. Ratios of 3,4-didehydroretinol to retinol (DR/R) were > 0.030, in 32% of the children. Mean serum retinol, alpha-tocopherol and cholesterol (+/- s.d.) were 1.09 +/- 0.23 microM/L, 16.8 +/- 6.3 microM/L and 4.01 +/- 0.8 microM/L. Three children (3.9%) showed a serum retinol value < 0.7 microM/L. One child with a serum retinol value < 0.7 microM/L and one additional child showed a ratio of alpha-tocopherol to cholesterol < 1.44 mumol/mmol. The mean alpha-tocopherol to cholesterol ratio for the group (4.31 +/- 1.71 mumol/mmol), however, was satisfactory. The only significant (P < or = 0.05) age-related changes were an increase in the serum cholesterol (P = 0.005) and decrease in the alpha-tocopherol to cholesterol ratio (P < 0.005) between the 0-2 y and the 2-4 y groups. Serum cholesterol (P = 0.0165, two-tailed) and lycopene (P = 0.004) concentrations of Afro-Americans were significantly higher than those of Caucasians. Median serum concentrations of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene were lower and, of lycopene higher than those found in children studied in a national survey. Serum carotenoid concentrations generally increased with age.


Larger percentages of underweight and overweight children and a significant degree (32%) of inadequate vitamin A status were found in this group of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. Afro-Americans showed higher serum cholesterol and lycopene concentrations than did Caucasians, but otherwise were nutritionally similar. Age-related changes were small. Of nutritional parameters considered, the vitamin A status of socioeconomically disadvantaged segments of our population clearly needs attention.

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