(RxWiki News) Vitamin A supplements remain an effective way to reduce childhood death and disease, according to a new study by Cochrane researchers.
The researchers strongly support the continuation of vitamin A supplementation programs, which have been shown to reduce instances of measles and diarrhea. People who do not receive enough vitamin A are more susceptible to blindness, infection and early death, which is partly why the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vitamin A for pregnant mothers and children.
Vitamin A supplication programs in developing countries have come under critical debate, however, because the programs lack effectiveness, according to critics.
The 43 trials included in the review involved 215,633 children between the age of six months and five years. All but one trial used the standard dose of vitamin A as recommended by the WHO.
The results? Vitamin A capsules reduced the risk of death from any cause by 24% compared to placebos or usual treatment, which is the equivalent of saving the lives of almost a million vitamin A-deficient children per year.
The review also suggests vitamin A may play a pivotal role in preventing measles and diarrhea.
"Giving vitamin A is associated with a reduction in the incidence of diarrhea and measles, as well as the number of child deaths due to these diseases," said Zulfiqar Bhutta, chairman of the Division of Women and Child Health at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, and 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."