In a new study, researchers find that vitamin A orange maize can significantly improve visual functions in children.
The study was conducted among school-aged children (4 to 8 years old) in rural Zambia.
Vitamin A deficiency occurs on a continuum. Severe vitamin A deficiency with blinding eye disease and a high risk of death from otherwise curable infections is at one end of the spectrum.
But, less severe, incipient vitamin A deficiency — also an important underlying cause of child deaths–is more frequent and difficult to detect.
According to the World Health Organization, lack of sufficient vitamin A blinds up to 500,000 children worldwide every year.
Impairment of the eyes’ ability to adapt to low-light conditions is one of the few measurable signs of vitamin A deficiency at its initial stages.
In this study, scientists used specialized portable equipment to confirm the benefit of eating vitamin A-rich orange maize in a population with marginal deficiency.
The new device is called a Portable Field Dark Adaptometer (PFDA). The PFDA is a set of goggles manufactured with a digital camera and flash inside.
The goggles are connected to a desktop or laptop computer, which can accurately record the response of the pupil in each eye to changing light conditions.
The researchers analyzed how children’s eyes responded to different light conditions before and after a six-month feeding period.
The result showed that children who ate orange maize showed improved night vision within 6 months.
Their eyes adapted better in the dark, improving their ability to engage in optimal day-to-day activities under dim light, such as during dusk and dawn. The study is published in The Journal of Nutrition.
The finding shows that in populations that are vitamin A deficient, the eyes can respond well to a good source of vitamin A such as orange maize in a fairly short span of time.
It also validates the importance of orange maize for tackling vitamin A deficiency as part of a food-based approach.
News Source: HarvestPlus.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to HarvestPlus.