Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Department name when degree awarded

Nutrition and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Carol T. Windham, Bonita W. Wyse


Carol T. Windham


Bonita W. Wyse


R. Gaurth Hansen


John C. Malechek


Vitamin A nutrition status was evaluated in 110 pairs of women and their preschool children at rural health posts in two different ecological regions of Northeast Brazil. Serum retinol and carotene, weight, height, tricep skinfold and mid-arm circumference were measured from each mother and child. Nutrition knowledge of mothers, socioeconomic living conditions and consumption of retinol and carotene food sources were assessed.

Nine children (8 percent) and one mother had less than acceptable serum retinol (less than 20 μg/dl). Additionally, 21 percent of the children and six percent of the mothers had "low" serum carotene levels. Thirty-seven percent and 57 percent of the children were at or below the tenth percentile for height and weight, respectively, when compared to Brazilian standard tables, and 30 percent were below the tenth percentile of weight for height. When compared to NCHS standard tables, 34 percent were below the tenth percentile for weight/height. Nutrition knowledge was very limited, but opportunities for nutrition education are great as mothers wanted more nutrition and feeding information. Squash, carrots and mangoes were more common sources of vitamin A than were animal sources.

Multiple regression models indicated statistical significance among mothers' serum retinol, survey site, and mothers' weight/height percentile and among mothers' vitamin A intake, survey site, and mothers' ages. The data indicate that vitamin A nutrition status is suboptimal in Northeast Brazil, but appropriate food sources exist. Long-term intervention projects need to focus on increasing the production, distribution, and consumption of preformed vitamin A- and carotene-rich foods.