Most of the low and middle-income countries suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. People whose diets do not include enough of the vitamin may have impaired body functions, and be more susceptible to blindness, infection and early death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vitamin A supplements for pregnant mothers and children but recently controversies raised regarding the effectiveness of vitamin A supplementation programmes in developing countries.
The 43 trials were included in the review, which involved 215,633 children between six months and five years of age. All except one trial used the standard dose of vitamin A as recommended by the WHO.
Overall, giving vitamin A capsules reduced the risk of death from any cause by 24 per cent compared to placebos or usual treatment. This equates to saving the lives of almost a million vitamin A deficient children a year.
The review by Cochrane researchers suggests that much of the beneficial effect vitamin A supplementation in developing countries may be related to prevention of measles and diarrhoea.
“Giving vitamin A is associated with a reduction in the incidence of diarrhoea and measles, as well as the number of child deaths due to these diseases,” said Zulfiqar Bhutta of Aga Khan University in Pakistan and the senior reviewer of the project.
“However, the effects of supplementation on disease pathways are not well understood, so this could be a focus for further studies,” he added.
The researchers strongly recommend continuation of vitamin A supplementation programs in children under five, but recognize that this it is not a permanent solution to the problem of vitamin A deficiency.
via Times of India