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J Infect Dis. 2000 Sep;182 Suppl 1:S122-33.

Vitamin A supplementation: implications for morbidity and mortality in children.

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  • 1Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Vitamin A deficiency impairs epithelial integrity and systemic immunity and increases the incidence and severity of infections during childhood. However, findings from vitamin A supplementation trials are not consistent. Supplementation has resulted in significant reductions in mortality in several (but not all) large community-based trials among apparently healthy children. In hospital-based studies, vitamin A supplements have been consistently found to reduce the severity of measles infection, but no effect on nonmeasles respiratory infections has been observed. In some cases, the supplements were associated with an apparently increased risk of lower respiratory infection. Vitamin A supplements also reduced the severity of diarrhea in most (but not all) trials. Potential explanations for the differences in efficacy across trials are reviewed. While vitamin A supplementation is effective in reducing total mortality and complications from measles infections, it is likely to be more effective in populations suffering from nutritional deficiencies.

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