The Potential of Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato to Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency in Africa
Purpose: Vitamin A defi ciency is among major health problems worldwide that leads to blindness, retarded growth and death, particularly in developing countries. In these countries, vitamin A defi ciency largely affects pre-school children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and the rural poor. For instance, the predicted prevalence of vitamin A defi ciency for 36 sub-Saharan African countries is 19.1 %. Methods: Different strategies, including vitamin A supplementation, food fortifi cation and dietary
diversifi cation, have been used to combat this problem. However, these strategies are not sustainable due to their high costs. Results: Orange-fl eshed sweet potato ( Ipomoea batatas L. Lam) is a low priced crop, which is part of staple foods in most of sub-Saharan Africa that can be a year-round source of vitamin A. Most of the orange-fl eshed sweet potato varieties contain 3000 – 16000 μg 100 g -1 of β-carotene and this contributes to 250 to 1300 μg 100 g -1 Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE). Therefore, by using orange-fl eshed sweet potato, it is possible to improve vitamin A status, increase the bio-availability of different micro-nutrients such as Fe, Zn, Ca and Mg, reduce vitamin A defi ciency and hence reduce child mortality rates by 23 to 30 %. Conclusion: The article highlights the signifi cance of vitamin A for human nutrition, the effect of vitamin A defi ciency, the different prevention methods and the potential of orange- fl eshed sweet potato as a food crop to prevent vitamin A deficiency.