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Food sources of vitamin A and provitamin A specific to Africa: An FAO perspective

Author: Codjia, Georges

Source: Food & Nutrition Bulletin, Volume 22, Number 4, December 2001 , pp. 357-360(4)

Publisher: Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation

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Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem in Africa, especially in the Sahelian countries. It occurs mainly in young children and women of childbearing age. Inadequate intake of vitamin A is the main cause of the deficiency. The main animal sources of vitamin A are liver, eggs, milk, and milk products. They contain 25 to 8,235 retinol equivalents (RE)/100 g of edible portion. Even though these sources are rich in highly bioavailable vitamin A, their consumption among the population is still low. Plant foods rich in provitamin A represent more than 80% of the total food intake of vitamin A because of their low cost, high availability, and diversity. Fruits, roots, tubers, and leafy vegetables are the main providers of provitamin A carotenoids. Because of their availability and affordability, green leafy vegetables are consumed largely by the poor populations, but their provitamin A activity has been proven to be less than previously assumed. Among fruits, mangoes constitute an important seasonal source of vitamin A. Yellow or orange sweet potatoes are rich in provitamin A. Red palm oil has a high concentration of provitamin A carotenoids (500–700 ppm/100 g). Extension of new varieties with a high content of bioavailable provitamin A and locally adapted education and counseling on the handling and storage of provitamin A sources can significantly increase the vitamin A intake of vulnerable people. The Food and Agriculture Organization has implemented projects in several African countries to increase production and promote consumption of locally produced or available vitamin A–rich foods. The focus has been on women as the principal food producers and behavioral change agents. Adoption of food- and agriculture-based strategies as the best, appropriate, efficient, and long-term solution should be the focus of African efforts to improve nutrition. Food sources of vitamin A and provitamin A are plentiful in Africa. Food-consumption practices, food habits, and cultural aspects represent essential factors to be taken into account for successful implementation of these approaches.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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