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Eur J Clin Nutr. 1993 Feb;47(2):88-96.

Impact of large-dose vitamin A supplementation on childhood diarrhoea, respiratory disease and growth.

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Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Beijing.


One hundred and seventy-two 0.5-3.0-year-old children in a mountainous area of northern Hebei Province of China were randomly assigned to a vitamin A supplementation group (n = 98) or a control group (n = 74) for a 1 year double-blind study. Capsules containing 200,000 IU vitamin A and 40 IU vitamin E were given to the children in the experimental group 3 and 9 months after baseline examination. During the 12 month study period, there was a significant reduction in the incidence of diarrhoea (P < 0.01) and respiratory disease (P < 0.01) in the children of the experimental group compared to the control. Risk of diarrhoea and respiratory disease were respectively 2.5 and 3.4 times higher in the control children. Serum retinol and IgA levels of the treatment group were significantly higher than that of control group (P < 0.01) 7 weeks after first supplementation. There was no significant difference in saliva IgA level between groups. No significant differences in growth were observed. It was concluded that supplementation with large doses of vitamin A decreased the incidence and severity of diarrhoea and respiratory disease in these children, possibly through enhanced activity of the immune system, but had no effect on growth over 1 year.

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