Skin Carotenoids Assessment to Detect Vitamin A Deficiency in Children and Pregnant Women in Nepal
Raba Thapa, MD, PhD
BACKGROUND: Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a public health problem in children of Nepal resulting in night blindness and other associated morbidities and mortality. A recent study reported that the incidence of VAD ranges from 3 to 7% in children between age six months to five years in various parts of the country. GAP: There are no facilities for objective measurement of vitamin A deficiency in Nepal. Serum retinol analysis is very expensive and has to be sent abroad, and we have to wait a long time for the results. HYPOTHESIS: Measurement of skin carotenoids using the Veggie Meter will be a simple and non-invasive procedure for rapid screening for VAD in children and pregnant women in high-risk regions of Nepal. METHODS: This is a comparative cross-sectional study. Study subjects will include populations at high-risk for vitamin A deficiency such as children (8 to 12 years old) and pregnant women from regions in Nepal with poor nutrition. RESULTS: The Veggie Meter is the portable non-invasive instrument that uses reflection spectroscopy (RS) to measure skin carotenoid levels. A study has shown good correlations of its skin carotenoid score with total serum carotenoid levels using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) (R = 0.81; p < 0.001). IMPACT: High-risk cases for VAD can be identified immediately using a non-invasive simple portable device known as the Veggie Meter. This will facilitate prompt treatment and monitoring of dietary or supplement interventions.