Vitamin A supplementation is a global health strategy to eliminate vitamin A deficiency and its tragic consequences. Because vitamin A can be stored in the body for a few months, young children only need two high-dose supplements a year. Children should receive their first vitamin A capsule at six months of age. Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient, essential for the development process of children in their first 5 years of life.
Vitamin A supplementation reduces childhood morbidity and mortality and is recommended for infants and children aged 6 to 59 months when VAD is a public health problem. These guidelines are intended to replace and update previous WHO recommendations on vitamin A supplementation to mothers to prevent vitamin A deficiency and improve the vitamin A status of mothers and their babies. Most countries in which vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is known to be a serious public health problem have policies that support the distribution of vitamin A. Therefore, researchers and public health experts have continued to study the possible effects (both health-promoting and potentially harmful) of vitamin A supplementation on maternal and child health during the reproductive cycle.
Trials on vitamin A supplementation in infants and children aged 6 to 59 months have revealed rare, transient and mild adverse symptoms (irritability, headache, fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting). Similarly, they concluded that many breastfeeding women and their nursing babies would benefit from a high-dose maternal supplement given up to 60 days after delivery. Vitamin A deficiency is a significant global health problem affecting some 19 million pregnant women and 190 million preschool children, most of them in Africa and Southeast Asia. The World Health Organization has published international guidelines on vitamin A supplementation to reduce infant mortality.
The dietary intake of vitamin A is obtained through the consumption of animal products, usually liver and dairy products, and also through the conversion of beta-carotene, which is found in high concentrations in orange and dark green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A deficiency remains a major public health problem around the world, especially in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. Strong evidence was found that vitamin A reduces infant mortality by reducing overt deficiency and infectious disease rates. Although women are highly susceptible to ventricular assistance during pregnancy, vitamin A supplementation is not recommended during pregnancy, as the high doses of vitamin A contained in the supplements may harm the developing baby.
If the vitamin A needs (through supplementation, fortification, or an appropriate diet) of children under five years of age in areas with vitamin A deficiency are met, overall mortality rates could be reduced by up to 23 percent. Vitamin A supplements are not routinely recommended for pregnant women, unless there is a serious public health problem. Because vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy and postpartum can severely affect maternal and child health, vitamin A supplementation is sometimes suggested.