Home gardens focusing on the production of yellow and dark-green leafy vegetables increase the serum retinol concentrations of 2–5-y-old children in South Africa.
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Background: Production of yellow and dark-green leafy vegetables at the household level may provide economically deprived households with direct access to provitamin A-rich foods. Objective: The aim of the study was to determine whether the dietary intake of yellow and dark-green leafy vegetables and the serum retinol concentrations of children improve with a home-gardening program. Design: A home-gardening program was integrated with a community-based growth-monitoring system in a rural village. Cross-sectional data were collected at baseline and 20 mo after implementation of the program. The dietary intake, serum retinol concentrations, and growth of 2-5-y-old children and maternal knowledge regarding vitamin A were determined. A neighboring village served as a control village. Results: In the experimental village, 126 home gardens were established, representing approximately one-third of the households. Serum retinol concentrations in the experimental village increased significantly (P = 0.0078), whereas those in the control village decreased significantly (P = 0.0148). At follow-up, children from the experimental village consumed yellow and dark-green leafy vegetables more often and had significantly higher (P = 0.005) serum retinol concentrations (0.81 +/- 0.22 micro mol/L; n = 110) than did children from the control village (0.73 +/- 0.19 micro mol/L; n = 111). Maternal knowledge regarding vitamin A improved significantly in the experimental village (P = 0.001). Conclusion: A home-gardening program that was integrated with a primary health care activity, linked to nutrition education, and focused on the production of yellow and dark-green leafy vegetables significantly improved the vitamin A status of 2-5-y-old children in a rural village in South Africa.
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