BACKGROUND: Inuit women from Northern Québec have been shown to consume inadequate quantities of vitamin A. This study was conducted to evaluate the prevalence of blood vitamin A deficiency in newborns from 3 distinct populations of the province of Québec. METHODS: 594 newborns were included in this study (375 Inuit newborns from northern Québec (Nunavik), 107 Caucasian and Native newborns from the Lower Northern Shore of the Saint-Lawrence River (LNS) and 112 newborns from Southern Québec where clinical vitamin A deficiency is uncommon). Mothers were recruited at delivery and vitamin A (retinol) was analyzed from umbilical cord blood samples by reversed-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography. RESULTS: Nunavik and LNS newborns had significantly lower mean vitamin A concentrations in cord blood compared to Southern Québec participants (15.7 microg/dL, 16.8 microg/dL and 20.4 microg/dL respectively). The differences observed were similar when adjusted for sex and birthweight. Results also showed that 8.5% of Nunavik newborns and 12.2% of LNS newborns were below 10.0 microg/dL, a level thought to be indicative of blood vitamin A deficiency in neonates. CONCLUSION: These data suggest that a carefully planned vitamin A supplementation program during pregnancy in Nunavik and LNS might be indicated to promote healthy infant development.