Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Epidemiological survey of vitamin deficiencies in older Thai adults: implications for national policy planning

Prasert Assantachaia1 c1 and Somsong Lekhakulaa2

a1 Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, 10700, Thailand

a2 Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, 10700, Thailand

Abstract

Objective To examine the prevalence and risk factors of vitamin deficiencies among older Thai adults.

Methods The cross-sectional study was conducted in four rural communities, one from each of the four main regions of Thailand. In total, 2336 subjects aged 60 years and over were recruited. Anthropometric variables, demographic data, blood glucose and lipid profile, albumin, globulin and blood levels of vitamin A, β-carotene, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B1 were all measured.

Results The prevalence of vitamin deficiencies was 0.6% for vitamin B12, 6.1% for vitamin A, 9.9% for vitamin C, 30.1% for vitamin B1, 38.8% for erythrocyte folate, 55.5% for vitamin E and 83.0% for β-carotene. Male gender was a common risk factor for at least three vitamin deficiencies, i.e. β-carotene, folate and vitamin E. Being a manual worker was a common risk factor of β-carotene and vitamin B1 deficiency. Poor income was found as a risk factor only in erythrocyte folate deficiency while increasing age was a significant factor only in vitamin C deficiency.

Conclusion The prevalence of vitamin deficiencies among older Thai people was quite different from that found in Western countries, reflecting different socio-economic backgrounds. Vitamin deficiency was not only from poor food intake but also from the dietary habit of monotonous food consumption in older people. Some common associated factors of atherosclerosis were also significantly related to folate and vitamin E deficiencies.

(Received April 27 2005)

(Accepted November 21 2005)

Correspondence

c1 * Corresponding author: Email sipus@mahidol.ac.th

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