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Abstract

Objectives:

Diets consisting of diverse food items provide a wide range of nutrients that can enhance nutritional quality of the diet. Few studies have, however, assessed dietary diversity and its effects on micronutrient health in rural populations in field settings. This study assesses how well Dietary Diversity Score (DDS), an indicator of dietary diversity based on a simple count of food groups consumed, predicts the micronutrient status, focusing on serum vitamin A concentration.

Methods:

We used cross-sectional data from women in food-insecure northern Kenya where dietary diversity is likely critical for micronutrient health yet under-studied. A linear regression model was applied to examine the relationships between DDS and serum retinol concentration. A logistic regression model was used to test DDS as a predictor of vitamin A insufficiency (serum retinol < 1.05 μmol/l).

Results:

DDS had a significant positive effect on serum retinol concentration (t = 2.01, P = 0.045) after adjusting for age, wealth, acute phase reaction, hemoglobin, vitamin A intake and vitamin A supplementation. A one unit increase in DDS by adding an extra food group in one's diet was significantly less likely to have vitamin A insufficiency (OR = 0.64, P = 0.026) after adjusting for the covariates.

Conclusions:

Our results indicate that diversified diets enhance vitamin A status relative to narrower diets with equivalent vitamin A content. DDS shows a potential as a low-cost, field-friendly method for exploratory assessments of vitamin A status, and a potential as a research tool for human biologists and anthropologists interested in dietary quality and micronutrient health. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.