Vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem in low and middle income countries and can lead to many adverse health consequences, including death.
This Cochrane review evaluated the effect of vitamin A supplementation in children aged 6 months to 5 years.
First, the details.
43 studies involving 215,633 children were included.
A meta-analysis included data from 17 studies of 194,795 children with 3536 deaths.
And, the results.
There was a 24% reduction in the risk of dying due to any cause for Vitamin A compared with the control group.
Viitamin A supplementation was associated with a 28% reduction in death due to diarrhea.
Vitamin A supplementation had no effect on death due to measles, respiratory disease, or meningitis.
Vitamin A supplementation reduced the incidence of diarrhea and death from measles
However, there was no significant effect on incidence of respiratory disease or hospitalizations due to diarrhea or pneumonia.
There was an increased risk of vomiting within the first 48 hours of vitamin A supplementation.
The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Vitamin A supplementation is effective in reducing all-cause mortality by about 24% compared to no treatment.”
They would like to see further studies designed to fine-tune doses and delivery mechanisms.
The World Health Organization tells us, “Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in more than half of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, hitting hardest young children and pregnant women in low-income countries.”
John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.