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Int J Epidemiol. 1999 Oct;28(5):874-81.

Respiratory infections reduce the growth response to vitamin A supplementation in a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.



Studies on the effect of vitamin A supplementation on growth have yielded various results. It is possible that such growth is dependent on the burden of infectious diseases in the population.


We analysed data from a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controled trial to examine the role of respiratory infections and diarrhoea in modifying the growth response to vitamin A supplementation. A single high dose of vitamin A or placebo was given every 4 months to 1405 children aged 6-48 months, and 4430 child treatment cycles were used in this analysis.


Vitamin A supplementation modestly improved linear but not ponderal growth of children who experienced little respiratory infection and especially of those who had vitamin A intake below the normative requirement (<400 RE/day). Children who received vitamin A and were free of respiratory infection grew 0.22 cm/4 months (95% CI: 0.08, 0.37) more in height than the placebo group, but those with > or =21.5% of days of respiratory infection did not show a significant growth response to vitamin A supplementation. Children who experienced no respiratory infection and had vitamin A intake <400 RE/day benefited most, gaining 0.31 cm/4 months (95% CI: 0.10, 0.52) more in height compared to the placebo group. Diarrhoea was associated with poorer growth, but did not significantly modify the effect of vitamin A supplementation on growth.


Vitamin A supplementation improves the linear growth of children who have a low intake of vitamin A but this impact is muted with increasing levels of respiratory infections.

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