Vitamin A status in healthy women eating traditionally prepared spirulina (Dihé) in the Chad Lake area

PLoS One. 2018 Jan 29;13(1):e0191887. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191887. eCollection 2018.


Background: Chad Lake is a central place in a region with a high prevalence of vitamin A deficiency. Spirulina, a natural source of β-carotene, is traditionally produced and eaten as "Dihé" around Chad Lake. β-carotene spirulina has been found to have a high conversion factor to retinol. The aim of the study was to assess if the retinol status between healthy women eating spirulina Dihé daily (SPI+) and not (SPI-) in the Chad Lake area was different.

Methods: This study was observational: 88 healthy women were recruited and selected according to clinical criteria and their willingness to participate. They were divided in two groups according to their Dihé daily consumption: those who eat Dihé (SPI+; n = 35) and those who do not (SPI-; n = 35). After anthropometric and dietary assessments, blood retinol, β-carotene, retinol binding, and inflammatory/nutritional proteins were measured.

Results: The diet between groups was identical, except for β-carotene consumption, which was higher in SPI+ than in SPI- (10.8 vs. 1.8 mg/day). The serum retinol and β-carotene concentrations were significantly higher in SPI+ than in SPI- at 1.26 ± 0.36 μmol/l versus 1.03 ± 0.31 μmol/l (p = 0.008) and 0.59 ±0.37 μmol/l versus 0.46± 0.31 μmol/l (p = 0.04), respectively. Seventy-seven percent of SPI+ versus 29% of SPI- had an adequate blood retinol value (p = 0.01).

Conclusion: The results confirm that β-carotene in spirulina is an effective positive modulator of blood retinol status. Dihé is a potential natural source of β-carotene to achieve a proper vitamin A status in healthy women living near Chad Lake.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chad
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lakes
  • Spirulina*
  • Vitamin A / blood*


  • Vitamin A

Grant support

The authors are grateful to Nestle Foundation for financing this research project. The authors likewise thank the French Embassy in Chad and the Centre National d’Appui à la Recherche (CNAR/CNRD) of Chad for their financial support in the organization and writing of this project. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.