To determine the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies among apparently healthy school-aged children (6-18 years) in rural South Africa (SA).
This cross-sectional study of five purposively selected rural schools in Cofimvaba, in the Eastern Cape Province of SA was conducted in May 2013. Measurements included: socio-economic characteristics, dietary intake, dietary diversity and biochemical and haematological (serum iron, zinc, vitamins A, B12 and folate) parameters in 237 children. The estimated average requirements (EAR) or Adequate Intakes (AI) was used to assess adequate intakes. All data was analysed using SPSS version 23.
The children were divided into 6-8 years (23.6%), 9-13years (35.0%) and 14-18 years (41.8%) groups. The majority of the child caregivers were single (62.7%) and had received primary (46.8%) or secondary (30.3%) education. No significant differences were observed in dietary micronutrient deficiencies among the age groups, except for vitamin B12 (p<0.001) and a high prevalence of inadequate serum folate levels (>80%) among all the children with, inadequate dietary nutrient intakes ranging from 35.4% to 83.3% (iron). A Linear regression indicated that 17.6% of the variability observed in serum folate (adjusted R2 =0.172; p<0.0001) was explained marginally by caregivers' educational status (coefficient=0.136; p<0.048), household income (coefficient= 0.216; p=0.002) and employment status (coefficient = -0.267; p<0.0001) but not gender.
An undesirable prevalence of folate and other micronutrient deficiencies were observed among apparently health children. High DDS did not translate into high micronutrient intakes. Nutrition relevant school feeding programmes should improve the micronutrient profile for improved cognitive development and learning outputs.