Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 28  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 157-164

Vitamin D and iron deficiencies among Saudi children and adolescents: A persistent problem in the 21st century

1 Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Children's Specialized Hospital, King Fahad Medical City; College of Medicine, Alfaisal University ; Prince Abdullah bin Khalid Celiac Disease Research Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Division of Biochemistry, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
3 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Division of Toxicology, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
4 Department of Biostatistics, Research Services Administration, Research center at King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Abdulrahman A. Al-Hussaini
Department of Pediatrics, Children's Specialized Hospital, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/sjg.sjg_298_21

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Background: Although several studies have reported on the prevalence of micronutrients in Saudi Arabia, most frequently vitamin D and iron, they are either old or hospital- or primary health care center-based. The objectives of our study were to provide more updated data on the prevalence rate of micronutrients deficiency among the Saudi general pediatric population and to determine if there is an association between micronutrients deficiency and undernutrition. Methods: The present study is part of a cross-sectional mass screening study, “Exploring the Iceberg of Celiacs in Saudi Arabia” conducted among school-aged children (6–16 years) in 2014–2015. A sample of 7,931 children aged 6–16 years was randomly selected. We identified thin children [body mass index (BMI) z-score <−2 SD, for age and gender], using the WHO reference 2007. A case-control study was performed, where the sera of 182 thin children (cases) and 393 normal BMI children (controls) were tested for levels of iron, ferritin, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and copper. Results: The prevalence of thinness was 3.5%. The two most common micronutrients deficient among Saudi children with normal BMI were iron (20%) and vitamin D (78%). Vitamin D levels were significantly higher among boys as compared to girls (39.6 nmol/L vs. 31.15 nmol/L; P < 0.001). Deficiency of copper, zinc, and selenium occurred in 0.25%, 1%, and 7.4% of the children with normal BMI. Comparisons between the cases and controls did not show statistically significant differences. Conclusion: Vitamin D and iron deficiencies are still common forms of malnutrition in the Saudi community, that have remained unchanged over the past 20–30 years, while the intake of trace elements (zinc, copper, and selenium) is adequate as evident by normal serum levels in the vast majority of the investigated children. We could not observe a correlation between undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.

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