Red palm oil bean-stew improved serum vitamin A and haemoglobin concentrations and anthropometric indicators of school children with low vitamin A concentrations in a malaria-endemic setting
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), anaemia, and parasitic infections are among the major nutritional and health problems confronting Ghanaian school children. This study assessed the impact of red palm oil bean-stew consumption on serum retinol and haemoglobin concentrations of Ghanaian school children in a malaria-endemic setting. The design was a pre-post nutrition intervention study. It involved 142 6-12 year-old children. Participants were selected by simple random sampling. After baseline sample and data collection, the participants consumed red palm oil bean-stew with gari (made from fermented, grated cassava flour), three times a week for a period of six months. Final biological samples and data were collected as at baseline. Dietary data were collected using Food Frequency Questionnaires and the 24-hour recall procedure. Serum retinol was measured with High Performance Liquid Chromatography and haemoglobin by Haemocue Haemoglobinometer. Malaria parasitaemia and hookworms were examined by microscopy from blood films and stool samples using the Giemsastaining and Kato-Katz techniques, respectively. Data were analysed with Statistical Package for Social Sciences version-23. Mean values for outcome variables were compared between baseline and final using paired t-tests. Results indicated that majority of the participants (82.4%) consumed cereals. Many of them also (98.6%) never consumed dairy or dairy products. Mean serum retinol concentration was 12.1 ± 6.6μg/dl during baseline and 16.2 ± 6.4μg/dl at final, the difference significant at p<0.05. The mean haemoglobin concentration at baseline was 119.4 ± 10.6 g/l and 126.0 ± 9.34g/l at final, with a significant difference at p<0.05. The prevalence of VAD defined as serum retinol concentration <20μg/dl was 76.2% at the end of the study being significantly different from that at baseline (93.6%), p<0.05. Prevalence of anaemia was 30.3% and 11.3% at baseline and final, respectively with a significant difference at p<0.05. Malaria parasitaemia was prevalent: 67.6 % at baseline and 62.7% at the end of the study. Only one participant (0.01%) was found with hookworm infestation. For participants with VAD, 48.3% and 36.2% improved to moderate and normal vitamin A status, respectively at the end of the study. The prevalence of anaemia among VAD participants was 36.2 % at baseline and 12.1 % at final. In conclusion, red palm oil beanstew consumption increased the haemoglobin concentration and minimized prevalence of anaemia among the study participants. It also increased serum retinol concentrations and minimized the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency (especially severe vitamin A deficiency) among the study participants.
Keywords: Red palm oil, Vitamin A, Haemoglobin, School children, Malaria, Parasitaemia