Efficacy Of Dried Amaranth Leaves (Amaranthus Cruentus) Consumption On Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc Of Children In Kajiando County, Kenya
Chege, Peter Maina
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Vitamin A, iron and zinc are currently among the major micronutrients of public health concern in the world. Children under five years are more vulnerable to the deficiencies. Globally, vitamin A deficiency affects about 250 million children under five years. It is estimated that 51% and 31% of the children in the world have iron and zinc deficiencies, respectively. In Kenya, the prevalence of vitamin A, iron and zinc deficiencies among children is 84%, 74% and 50%, respectively. Thus, there is a need for sustainable methods to address the deficiency. The intake of animal products among the Maasai community has declined. Solar dried amaranth leaves can be used to improve the dietary intake. Minimal information exists on how intake of dried vegetables incorporated into cereal flours would translate to improved micronutrient status. With this background, the possible effect of consuming dried amaranth leaves (DAL) incorporated in fermented maize flour (FMF) on the status of vitamin A, iron and zinc among children under five was investigated in Sajiloni, Kajiado County. A pre-test–post-test control group design was adopted. A comprehensive sample of 46 children aged 24 - 48 months for experimental group and 46 for control group was used in this study. A maize-amaranth blend (85:15%) which provided at least 100% of the RDAs for vitamin A was formulated using Pearson square for the experimental group while pure fermented maize flour porridge was used for the control group. The children consumed 250 mls of the porridge twice a day for six months. Dietary practices, morbidity pattern and nutrition status of the children was monitored on monthly basis while the serum levels for vitamin A, zinc and iron were done at baseline and at six months. The β - carotene in DAL, FMF and the formulated porridge were analysed using UV-VIS Spectrophotoscopy, while iron and zinc using Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS). Serum level analysis was done by use of AAS (MINI VIDAS) for iron and (Shimadzu AA-680) for zinc content. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was used to analyze β – carotene, retinol and ferittin and zinc. ENA for SMART software was used for analysis of anthropometric data while Nutri-survey was used for analysis of nutrient intake. Data were further analyzed using SPSS computer software. The relationship between amaranth intake, dietary practices, morbidity patterns and serum levels of retinol, β - carotene, ferittin and zinc was assessed using Pearson correlation, regression and chi-square. From the results, the formulated porridge DAL/FMF (15:85) was acceptable. Solar drying of amaranth led to a high concentration of nutrients and a higher retention of β – carotene, iron and zinc. The nutrient content of the DAL/FMF porridge was 6.81 ± 0.77, 12.05 ± 0.63 and 5.55 ± 0.41 mg/100g for β – carotene, iron and zinc, respectively. Intake of porridge made of 60 g of amaranth based flour enabled the children to attain the RDAs. Dried amaranth leaves were stable and safe for consumption after 9 months storage. The education level was low and household income was low. The nutrition knowledge level among caregivers was low. Inadequate intake of micronutrients led to high prevalence of illnesses. Majority of the children from both groups had low mean serum levels for retinol, β - carotene, ferittin and zinc at baseline showing deficiency. This significantly increased among the experimental group by the sixth month suggesting the role of DAL towards improving the status of these nutrients. Thus, DAL incorporated into cereals to significantly increased micronutrients intake. This study recommends the use of DAL as part of the diet for children.