Background: Vitamin A deficiency is associated with stunting and wasting in preschool children, but vitamin A supplementation trials have not shown a consistent effect on growth.
Objective: We examined the effect of vitamin A supplementation on height and weight increments among Indonesian preschool children.
Design: Data were obtained from a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial of rural Javanese children aged 6-48 mo. Children received 206000 IU vitamin A (103000 IU if aged <12 mo) or placebo every 4 mo.
Results: High-dose vitamin A supplementation modestly improved the linear growth of the children by 0.16 cm/4 mo. The effect was modified by age, initial vitamin A status, and breast-feeding status. Vitamin A supplementation improved height by 0.10 cm/4 mo in children aged <24 mo and by 0.22 cm/4 mo in children aged >/=24 mo. The vitamin A-supplemented children with an initial serum retinol concentration <0.35 micromol/L gained 0.39 cm/4 mo more in height and 152 g/4 mo more in weight than did the placebo group. No growth response to vitamin A was found among children with an initial serum retinol concentration >/=0.35 micromol/L. In non-breast-fed children, vitamin A supplementation improved height by 0.21 cm/4 mo regardless of age. In breast-fed children, vitamin A supplementation improved linear growth by approximately 0.21 cm/4 mo among children aged >/=24 mo, but had no significant effect on the growth of children aged <24 mo.
Conclusion: High-dose vitamin A supplementation improves the linear growth of children with very low serum retinol and the effect is modified by age and breast-feeding.