Vitamin A and vitamin E statuses of preschool children of socioeconomically disadvantaged families living in the midwestern United States

D. J. Spannaus-Martin, L. R. Cook, S. A. Tanumihardjo, P. K. Duitsman, J. A. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the vitamin A and vitamin E statuses of socioeconomically disadvantaged preschool American children. Design: Cross-sectional study of preschool children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families. Setting: Central Iowa, USA. Subjects: A group of 77 apparently healthy children was studied with the following characteristics: 5 mo-6 y; 37 males, 40 females; 56 non-Hispanic Caucasians, 3 Hispanics, 18 Afro-Americans. Methods: Modified relative dose response (MRDR) test for vitamin A status assessment; serum retinol, α-tocopherol, cholesterol, and carotenoids; weight for age. Results: Although the mean weight for age was the 53rd percentile of the NCHS standard, a significant number of children (P = 0.006, χ2) were either markedly underweight or overweight. Ratios of 3,4-didehydroretinol to retinol (DR/R) were > 0.030 in 32% of the children. Mean serum retinol, α-tocopherol and cholesterol (± s.d.) were 1.09 ± 0.23 μM/L, 16.8 ± 6.3 μM/L and 4.01 ± 0.8 mM/L. Three children (3.9%) showed a serum retinol value < 0.7 μM/L. One child with a serum retinol value < 0.7 μM/L and one additional child showed a ratio of α-tocopherol to cholesterol < 1.44 μmol/mmol. The mean α-tocopherol to cholesterol ratio for the group (4.31 ± 1.71 μmol/mmol), however, was satisfactory. The only significant (P ≤ 0.05) age-related changes were an increase in the serum cholesterol (P = 0.005) and decrease in the α-tocopherol to cholesterol ratio (P < 0.005) between the 0-2 y and the 2-4 y groups. Serum cholesterol (P = 0.0165, two-tailed) and lycopene (P = 0.004) concentrations of Afro-Americans were significantly higher than those of Caucasians. Median serum concentrations of α-carotene and β-carotene were lower and, of lycopene, higher than those found in children studied in a national survey. Serum carotenoid concentrations generally increased with age. Conclusions: Larger percentages of underweight and overweight children and a significant degree (32%) of inadequate vitamin A status were found in this group of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. Afro-Americans showed higher serum cholesterol and lycopene concentrations than did Caucasians, but otherwise were nutritionally similar. Age-related changes were small. Of nutritional parameters considered, the vitamin A status of socioeconomically disadvantaged segments of our population clearly needs attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)864-869
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements—We are most appreciative of the interest and whole-hearted cooperation of Dennis Bach and his colleagues at the Iowa WIC Program and of B J Petty at the Homes of Oakridge Early Enrichment Child Care Center, Des Moines, IA, as well as of our many young subjects. In addition to the financial sponsors cited in the abstract, we were supported by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Ames, IA, Journal Paper J-17047, Project 3335.


  • Carotenoids
  • Cholesterol
  • Modified relative dose response (MRDR) test
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Weight for age


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