The nutritional status of asymptomatic HIV-infected Africans: Directions for dietary intervention? Directions for dietary intervention?

Hester H. Vorster*, Annamarie Kruger, Barrie M. Margetts, Christina S. Venter, H. Salomé Kruger, Frederick Johannes Veldman, Una E. MacIntyre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To compare the relationships between food (nutrient) intakes and biochemical markers of nutritional status of asymptomatic HIV-infected with HIV-uninfected subjects, to gain more information on the appropriate diet for HIV-infected persons at an early stage of infection. Design: Cross-sectional population-based survey. Setting: North West Province, South Africa. Subjects: Two hundred and sixteen asymptomatic HIV-infected and 1550 HIV-uninfected men and women volunteers aged 15 years and older, recruited as 'apparently healthy' subjects from 37 randomly selected sites. Outcome measures: Food and nutrient intakes, measured with a validated food-frequency questionnaire, and nutritional status indicated by anthropometric and biochemical variables, measured by a standardised methodology. Results: The prevalence of HIV infection in the study population was 11.9%. The anthropometric indices and nutrient intakes of HIV-infected and uninfected subjects did not differ significantly, indicating that these 216 HIV-infected subjects were at an early stage of infection. Of the biochemical nutritional status variables, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol, haemoglobin, albumin and triglycerides were significantly lower in infected subjects. They also had higher globulin and liver enzyme levels than uninfected subjects. In infected subjects, serum albumin correlated significantly with serum lipids, serum vitamin A, serum vitamin E, serum iron, total iron-binding capacity and haemoglobin. The significant positive correlations of the liver enzymes with serum lipids, albumin, vitamin A and iron, observed in HIV-uninfected subjects, disappeared in the infected subjects. Polyunsaturated fat intake showed significant positive correlations with the increased liver enzymes in infected subjects. A principal components analysis indicated that, in infected subjects, increased liver enzymes correlated with higher consumption of maize meal and lower consumption of meat and vegetables. Conclusions and recommendations: This survey indicated that asymptomatic HIV-infected subjects who followed a diet rich in animal foods had smaller decreases in serum albumin, haemoglobin and lipid variables, and smaller increases in liver enzymes, than those who consumed a diet based on staple foods. This suggests that animal foods are associated with improved nutritional status in HIV-infected persons. These results should be confirmed with intervention studies before dietary recommendations for asymptomatic HIV-infected individuals can be made.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1064
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Africans
  • Albumin
  • Cholesterol
  • Developing countries
  • Diet
  • High-density lipoprotein
  • Nutritional status
  • Serum cholesterol


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