Dietary calcium intake and sunlight exposure among children aged 6-23 months in Dale Woreda, southern Ethiopia

  • F Tezera
  • SJ Whiting
  • S Gebremedhin
Keywords: Calcium, Children, Ethiopia, Rickets, Sunlight exposure, Vitamin D, Phytate, Complementary foods


Nutritional rickets can be caused by either or both calcium and vitamin D deficiencies, and can frequently occur in Africa. In Ethiopia, limited evidence exists regarding the calcium intake of children and their sunlight exposure practices. The purpose of this study was to assess information regarding dietary calcium intake and sunlight exposure practice, which are factors related to nutritional rickets. The study was conducted in Dale Woreda, Southern Ethiopia using a community based cross-sectional survey design with both descriptive and analytic components. A total of 170 children were selected using multi-stage sampling technique. A structured questionnaire and an interactive 24-hour dietary assessment method were used to collect data on sociodemographic and economic information and to assess dietary calcium intake of participant children. The Ethiopian food composition table supplemented by world food data were used to convert dietary intake into nutrient content. The mean (SD) age of the study children was 14.4 (+4.7) months. The male to female ratio was 1.24. The mean (± SD) calcium intake of participant children was 407 ± 235 mg/day; 26.5% had low dietary calcium intake compared with their age specific recommended nutrient intake (RNI) value. Regarding sunlight exposure, 41.1% participant mothers exposed their child to sunlight within 1 (one) month of birth and 56.5% of study children were exposed to sunlight for 20 to 30 minutes per day. In conclusion, the risk of dietary calcium inadequacy was prevalent because of low intakes by some children. Even if only 26.5% of participating children had low dietary calcium intake, the children in the study area have some risk of dietary calcium inadequacy due to the high content of phytate in the prevailing complementary foods such as fruits and maize based complementary food, which can inhibit bioavailability of calcium. The participant children were not at risk of inadequate exposure to sunlight because they had good exposure practices and there was no sunlight avoidance practices among the majority of participant children.

Key words: Calcium, Children, Ethiopia, Rickets, Sunlight exposure, Vitamin D,
Phytate, Complementary foods


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1684-5374
print ISSN: 1684-5358