FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
This study reveals a disturbingly high prevalence in Tunisian newborns of deficiencies of the fat soluble vitamins A, D and E, with serious implications for these infants' physical and mental health and development. It included over 600 babies born at a major maternity hospital in Tunisia serving pregnant women of low to average socioeconomic status.
Even in the control group of babies born at full-term, almost two-thirds were deficient in Vitamin A, over half were deficient in Vitamin E, and over 40% deficient in Vitamin D. For the premature and very low birth weight infants, around three-quarters of the sample were deficient in Vitamins A and E, and two-thirds were Vitamin D deficient.
As the researchers pointed out, these findings show a clear need for better management of the nutritional status of women during pregnancy, including supplementation if needed.
The World Health Organisation and other global organisations have long emphasised that nutritional deficiencies in early life can permanently damage both physical and mental health and wellbeing, so that the affected individuals never reach their full potential - an effect known as 'stunting'
. The costs of such malnutrition are simply vast compared with the costs of prevention. Furthermore, research into effective methods of intervention has already been done:
See: Mason et al 2014 - The first 500 days of life: policies to support maternal nutrition. Global Health Action 7, 23623