Night blindness, diet and health in Nepalese children: An ethno-epidemiological investigation of local beliefs

Anita V. Shankar, Joel Gittelsohn, Rajendra Pradhan, Birendra Dahal, Keith P. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper describes concepts of diet and health in Nepal related to night blindness in children. We compared beliefs of mothers with xerophthalmic children with those of mothers with children without xerophthalmia and those of selected community members participating in ethnographic interviews. Knowledge of night blindness terms, symptoms and local availability of vitamin A capsules were well understood. Night blindness was classified as a 'hot' illness, exacerbated by 'heat' inducing environments, but balanced by cold conditions or foods. The link between diet and night blindness, however, was not evident from ethnographic or household interviews. Vitamin A-rich foods were ascribed beneficial and harmful qualities during the ethnographic interviews. However, surveyed mothers tended not to report harmful food qualities. Food beliefs of mothers with xerophthalmic children did not differ significantly from those with non-xerophthalmic children, although the former were slightly less likely to recommend giving vitamin A-rich foods for childhood night blindness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-223
Number of pages25
JournalEcology of Food Nutrition
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

Keywords

  • Children
  • Ethnography
  • Food beliefs
  • Hot-cold beliefs
  • Nepal
  • Night blindness
  • Vitamin A deficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Ecology

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