Pupillary threshold as an index of population vitamin A status among children in India

Ana M. Sanchez, Nathan G. Congdon, Alfred Sommer, L. Rahmathullah, P. G. Venkataswamy, P. S. Chandravathi, Lily Clement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Two hundred seven vitamin A-deficient southern Indian children aged 1-7 y (mean age: 56.9 mo) underwent testing of dark-adapted visual and pupillary thresholds in their village setting according to a previously reported protocol. One hundred thirty (62.8%) of the children also underwent serum retinol testing, and 178 (86.0%) participated in a randomized, placebo- controlled vitamin A dosing trial with pre- and postdose testing of dark- adaptation threshold. Most subjects (184 of 207, 88.9%) were able to complete pupillary testing, an objective sign requiring minimal cooperation, including a high proportion of the youngest children (72.2% of subjects aged 2 y). The proportion of children completing visual threshold testing, which requires greater understanding and cooperation, was significantly smaller than that able to complete pupillary testing (131 of 207, 63.3%; P < 0.0001, chi square). At baseline (predosing), the mean serum retinol concentration declined in linear fashion with a higher pupillary threshold (0.73 μmol/L with a score ≤ 4; 0.47 μmol/L with a score ≤ 8; P < 0.01). The mean pupillary threshold for these highly vitamin A-deficient Indian children (- 0.622 log cd/m2) was significantly higher than that for 136 more moderately deficient Indonesian children (-0.985 log cd/m2; P < 0.001, two-sample t test) and 56 normal American children (-1.335 log cd/m2; P < 0.0001, two- sample t test). The improvement in pupillary dark-adaptation testing was not significant for children receiving vitamin A or placebo, though there was a nonsignificant trend toward greater improvement in children receiving vitamin A (P = 0.2, two-sample t test). Pupillary threshold testing represents a new, noninvasive, practical, and seemingly valid approach to assessing the vitamin A status of a moderately to severely deficient preschool population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Vitamin A
  • children
  • dark adaptation
  • night vision
  • pupil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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