Background: 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.
Objective: 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.
Design: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusions: 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.