Objective: To determine the effects of eating carotene-rich green and yellow vegetables on the prevalence of anaemia, iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anaemia in schoolchildren.
Subjects and methods: Schoolchildren (n=104), aged 9-12 years, received standardized meals containing 4.2 mg of provitamin A carotenoids/day (mainly beta-carotene) from yellow and green leafy vegetables and at least 7 g dietary fat/day. The meals were provided three times/day, 5 days/week, for 9 weeks at school. Before and after the dietary intervention, total-body vitamin A pool size was assessed by using the deuterated-retinol-dilution method; serum retinol and beta-carotene concentrations were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography; and whole blood haemoglobin (Hb) and zinc protoporphyrin (ZnPP) concentrations were measured by using a photometer and a hematofluorometer, respectively.
Results: After 9 weeks, the mean total-body vitamin A pool size increased twofold (95% confidence interval (CI): -0.11, -0.07 micromol retinol; P<0.001), and serum beta-carotene concentration increased fivefold (95% CI: -0.97, -0.79 micromol/l; P<0.001). Blood Hb (95% CI: -1.02, -0.52 g per 100 ml; P<0.001) and ZnPP increased (95% CI: -11.82, -4.57 microol/mol haem; P<0.001). The prevalence of anaemia (Hb<11.5 g per 100 ml) decreased from 12.5 to 1.9% (P<0.001). There were no significant changes in the prevalence of iron deficiency or iron-deficiency anaemia.
Conclusions: Ingestion of carotene-rich yellow and green leafy vegetables improves the total-body vitamin A pool size and Hb concentration, and decreases anaemia rates in Filipino schoolchildren, with no effect on iron deficiency or iron-deficiency anaemia rates.