Low intake of fruits/vegetables (FV) among preschoolers is well documented, establishing a need for interventions that can improve intake. However, in order to determine effectiveness of interventions, valid and objective methods are needed. A promising non-invasive tool for objectively measuring FV consumption is the Veggie Meter (VM), which uses reflection spectroscopy to assess skin carotenoids. While the tool has been used and validated in adults, limited research exists to describe its use in children.
Establish baseline skin carotenoids and examine differences in skin carotenoids and changes over time by age, gender, and race of preschoolers enrolled in Head Start (HS) in North Carolina.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A prospective cohort design was used to collect baseline and post-surveys from participating families. Children's skin carotenoids were measured 3 times over a 6-month period.
Measureable Outcome and Analysis
Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to identify baseline skin carotenoids and changes over time by race, age, and gender.
One hundred and twelve children from 3 HS centers participated. On average, children were 4.1 years old, African American (AA) (81.3%), and male (57%). Mean (SE) skin carotenoids across time were 266.0 (7.8); at Time 1, 266 (7.8); Time 2, 277 (8.1); and Time 3, 248 (7.6). Skin carotenoids varied among ethnic groups (P = .67) with Hispanics having the highest skin carotenoid average 297 (19.7), followed by white 281 (37.4), AA 265 (8.8), and other races 234 (35.8). Significant differences were observed between ages (P = .01) with mean skin carotenoids 3-year-olds, 241(13.6); 4-year-olds, 267(8.3), and 5-year olds 340 (48.5); and gender (P = .01) with males having higher mean skin carotenoids 282 (9.3) vs females 243 (12.8).
Findings suggest skin carotenoids in preschoolers vary over time and by age, gender, and race. More research is needed to explore skin carotenoid changes over a full year's time to establish baseline levels among a diverse sample of preschoolers.