Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
MORA, Jose O.; GUERI, Miguel and MORA, Olga L.. Vitamin A deficiency in Latin America and the Caribbean: an overview. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1998, vol.4, n.3 ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891998000900005.
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) has been known to exist in Latin America and the Caribbean since the mid-1960s; however, except for pioneering work by the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama/Pan American Health Organization on sugar fortification in Central America, there was little interest in controlling it because of the low frequency of clinical findings. More recently, implications of the effect of subclinical VAD on child health and survival has generated increased interest in assessing the problem and a greater commitment to controlling it. The information available by mid-1997 on the magnitude of VAD in countries of the Region was extensively reviewed. Internationally accepted methods and cutoff points for prevalence estimations were used to compile information from relevant dietary, biochemical, and clinical studies carried out between 1985 and 1997 in samples of at least 100 individuals. VAD in the Region of Latin America and the Caribbean is mostly subclinical. The national prevalence of subclinical VAD (serum retinol < 20 mg/dl) in children under 5 years of age ranges between 6% in Panama and 36% in El Salvador. The problem is severe in five countries, moderate in six, and mild in four. There are no recent data from Chile, Haiti, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the English-speaking Caribbean. The population affected amounts to about 14.5 million children under 5 years of age (25% of that age group). Schoolchildren and adult women may also have significant VAD. Actions currently implemented to control VAD include (a) universal or targeted supplementation, with sustained high coverage rates through national immunization days in some countries; (b) sugar fortification, which is well established in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (a significant effect has been documented in Guatemala and Honduras) and is under negotiation in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica (to be resumed), Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Peru; and (c) limited dietary diversification activities.