Vitamin A Supplementation May Be Crucial for Children
By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, August 29, 2011, abstracted from “Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis.” in the British Medical Journal
Health concerns in children can arise from simple vitamin deficiencies which can cause significant health problems. As a result, there have been recommendations for infants in recent years that include vitamin D (300 IU/day in children less than 2 years old (1) and zinc (20 mg zinc sulphate per day (2). Now a new study (3) suggests vitamin A supplementation in children.
Vitamin A is classified as “”essential”, since it must be obtained from food because the body cannot synthesize it (4). In addition, the ability to absorb vitamin A (called “bioavailability”) in fruit and vegetables is lower than once believed (5, 6), making it difficult for children to satisfy their daily requirements through diet alone. The illnesses that result from vitamin A deficiency (diarrhea, measles, and respiratory infections (7, 8)) are leading causes of mortality among children in low and middle income countries (9).
In the study, researchers analyzed 43 trials with about 215, 633 children receiving the World Health Organization recommendations for vitamin A totaling 100,000 IU for infants 6-11 months and totaling 200,000 IU every six months for infants 1-5 years (10). Of those 43 trials, 17 consisted of 194,483 children and found a 24% reduction in all causes of death (called “all-cause mortality”) (p < 0.02). Seven trials also showed a 28% reduction in mortality associated with diarrhea (p < 0.001) and a 68% reduced risk of vision problems that included night blindness and xerophthalmia.
The researchers cited that vitamin A supplementation in infants “could be among the world’s most cost-effective public health interventions (11)”, with the potential to save 600,000 lives each year” (12). They concluded that “vitamin A supplements should be given to all children at risk of deficiency, particularly in low and middle income countries. “
Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA. You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.PitchingDoc.com
1. Zipits CS. Vitamin D deficiency: primary or tertiary prevention? Arch Dis Child 2006;000:1–5
2. Sheikh A. Zinc Influences Innate Immune Responses in Children with Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli-Induced Diarrhea. J. Nutr. 2010 140: 1049-1056. First published online May 1, 2010; doi:10.3945/jn.109.111492
3. E. Mayo-Wilson, A. Imdad, K. Herzer, M. Y. Yakoob, Z. A. Bhutta. Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2011; 343 (aug25 1): d5094 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d5094
4. Bates CJ. Vitamin A. Lancet 1995;345:31-5.
5. De Pee S, West CE, Muhilal M, Karyadi D, Hautvast JG. Lack of improvement in vitamin A status with increased consumption of dark-green leafy vegetables. Lancet 1995;346:75-81.
6. Tang G. Bioconversion of dietary provitamin A humans. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1468-73S
7. Sommer A, West KP. Vitamin A deficiency: health, survival, and vision. Oxford University Press, 1996.
8. Rice AL, West KP Jr, Black RE. Vitamin A deficiency. Global and regional burden of disease attributable to selected major risk factors. Vol 1. World Health Organization, 2004.
9. Black RE, Allen LH, Bhutta ZA, Caulfield LE, de Onis M, Ezzati M, et al. Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. Lancet 2008;371:243-
11. Fawzi WW. The benefits and concerns related to vitamin A supplementation. J Infect Dis 2006;193:756-9.
12. Bhutta ZA, Ahmed T, Black RE, Cousens S, Dewey K, Giugliani E, et al. What works? Interventions for maternal and child undernutrition and survival. Lancet 2008;371:417-40.