Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) remains a major public health issue and is reported to be the cause of about 6 percent of child deaths under the age of 5 years in Africa. Inadequate dietary intake of vitamin A-rich foods is a major cause of VAD. Moringa oleifera leaf powder (MLP) is rich in nutrients particularly vitamin A and its use in infant feeding has been explored. This pilot study was designed to test the efficacy of MLP in improving blood retinol concentrations among infants in a rural district in Ghana. A subset of infants participating in a randomized controlled trial (ISRCTN14377902) were randomly assigned to receive one of the three study foods (MCL-35g and MS-5g both of which were fortified with MLP, and a third food, CF-35g, a cereal legume blend which served as the control food) in a feeding intervention that lasted for 6 weeks. Primary outcome of the pilot study was retinol levels measured in 5 ml of whole blood at baseline and endline using the iCheck™ Fluoro device. A total of 103 infant-mother pairs were recruited at baseline, of which 65 completed the study. All the infants in the study were vitamin A deficient at both baseline and endline when compared to the World Health Organization (WHO) threshold of 0.70µmol/l. There was however a marginal non-significant increase in blood vitamin A concentrations for all three groups at endline, with higher numerical increases seen in the two Moringa supplemented groups. VAD is a significant public health problem and MLP could be an affordable and sustainable means of combatting the issue. The efficacy of MLP in improving vitamin A status of infants however needs to be ascertained in well-designed trials involving larger numbers of infants and which will last for longer periods. Such studies will also be beneficial in helping to establish the long-term acceptability of complementary foods that incorporate MLP in the target population.
Keywords: Moringa oleifera leaf powder; Vitamin A deficiency; infants and young children.