Comparison of methods of assessing vitamin a status in children

Dhiren Makdani, Anne L. Sowell, J. Daniel Nelson, Jean Apgar, Elaine W. Gunter, Amin Hegar, Will Potts, David Rao, Adeline Wilcox, J. Cecil Smith

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14 Scopus citations


A study of children (2-8 years; n = 613) in Belize, Central America, was conducted to determine what proportion of the children might be at risk of vitamin A (vit A) deficiency. The data provide an opportunity to compare results of three methods of assessing vit A status in a population which was not severely malnourished. Serum retinyl ester concentrations were also determined; their relevance to one of the tests, the relative dose response (RDR) test, is discussed. The three methods of assessing vit A status were: RDR test, fasting serum retinol concentration, and conjunctival impression cytology (CIC). Retinol-binding protein (RBP), serum retinyl esters and serum zinc concentrations were also determined. Inadequate vit A status was indicated for 17% of subjects by the RDR test (14% cutoff), for 24% by fasting serum retinol concentration (< 0.87 mumol/L), and for 49% by “abnormal” CIC score. Retinyl esters constituted 24% of serum retinoids at the time (5 hours after a retinyl palmitate dose) at which the second blood sample is taken for the RDR test. Regression tree analyses (CART) indicated ethnicity was a predictor of RDR score; ethnicity, stunting and age were predictors of fasting serum retinol concentration; ethnicity and stunting were predictors of 0-hour retinyl ester concentration. The three indices of vit A status did not identify the same individuals nor indicate the same percentage of the population to be at risk for vit A deficiency. Increased concentrations of retinyl esters at 5 hours compared to those at 0 hours suggest that insufficient retinol may have been taken up by the liver at 5 hours to release all accumulated retinol-binding protein (RBP) in deficient individuals; prevalence of vit A deficiency might therefore be underestimated by the RDR test. The selection of ethnicity as a predictor of RDR score and of 0-hour retinol and retinyl ester concentrations suggests that factors other than vit A status affect vit A metabolism and may affect the RDR test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-449
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Conjunctival impression cytology
  • Ethnicity
  • RDR
  • Relative dose response
  • Retinol
  • Retinol-binding protein
  • Retinyl esters
  • Stunting


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