Background: Strategies for improving the vitamin A status of vulnerable populations are needed.
Objective: We studied the influence of the amounts of dietary fat on the effectiveness of carotene-rich plant foods in improving vitamin A status.
Design: Schoolchildren aged 9-12 y were fed standardized meals 3 times/d, 5 d/wk, for 9 wk. The meals provided 4.2 mg provitamin A carotenoids/d (mainly beta-carotene) from yellow and green leafy vegetables [carrots, pechay (bok choy), squash, and kangkong (swamp cabbage)] and 7, 15, or 29 g fat/d (2.4, 5, or 10 g fat/meal) in groups A, B, and C (n = 39, 39, and 38, respectively). Other self-selected foods eaten were recorded daily. Before and after the intervention, total-body vitamin A pool sizes and liver vitamin A concentrations were measured with the deuterated-retinol-dilution method; serum retinol and carotenoid concentrations were measured by HPLC.
Results: Similar increases in mean serum beta-carotene (5-fold), alpha-carotene (19-fold), and beta-cryptoxanthin (2-fold) concentrations; total-body vitamin A pool size (2-fold); and liver vitamin A (2-fold) concentrations were observed after 9 wk in the 3 study groups; mean serum retinol concentrations did not change significantly. The total daily beta-carotene intake from study meals plus self-selected foods was similar between the 3 groups and was 14 times the usual intake; total fat intake was 0.9, 1.4, or 2.0 times the usual intake in groups A, B, and C, respectively. The overall prevalence of low liver vitamin A (<0.07 mumol/g) decreased from 35% to 7%.
Conclusions: Carotene-rich yellow and green leafy vegetables, when ingested with minimal fat, enhance serum carotenoids and the total-body vitamin A pool size and can restore low liver vitamin A concentrations to normal concentrations.