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Open Access Enhancing vitamin A intake in young children in western Kenya: Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and women farmers can serve as key entry points

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In western Kenya, where vitamin A deficiency is common and the white sweet potato is an important secondary staple, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were introduced and their consumption was promoted, along with other vitamin A–rich foods. Ten women's groups grew a number of varieties of sweet potato on group plots in on-farm trials. Five of the groups also received an intervention consisting of nutritional education, individual counseling, and participatory rapid appraisal techniques to promote vitamin A consumption, while the other five formed the control group that received no additional promotion. Changes in consumption of children under five years of age were assessed before and after a one-year intervention period using the Helen Keller International food-frequency method. Varieties were tested for yield, agronomic performance, taste and appearance, and dry matter content. They were also assessed for β-carotene content in the forms of boiled and mashed puree, sweet potato flour, and processed products. Children in the intervention group consumed vitamin A–rich foods almost twice as frequently as control children (93% more), especially orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, mangoes, dark-green leafy vegetables, butter, and eggs. The yields of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were at least twice those of white sweet potatoes, as were the taste and appearance ratings. The dry matter content of the varieties exceeded 25%, except for one that was preferred as a weaning food. β-Carotene values were high enough that one cup of boiled and mashed sweet potato fed daily to children of weaning age would alone meet their requirement of vitamin A, even using the higher 12:1 β-carotene:retinol conversion. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes produced and prepared by women farmers can serve as a key food-based entry point for reducing vitamin A deficiency.

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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