Vitamin A supplements prevent morbidity and mortality in children

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.”

12/11/10 17:44 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.