Objective: While iron deficiency is regarded as the major cause of nutritional anaemia, changes in vitamins A, B12, C and E, folic acid and riboflavin status have also been linked to its development and control. This paper provides a systematic review of vitamin supplementation trials relating to the control of nutritional anaemia.
Methods: A MEDLINE search was used to find reports of vitamin supplementation trials that reported changes in anaemia or iron status.
Results: Vitamin A can improve haematological indicators and enhance the efficacy of iron supplementation. Both folate and vitamin B12 can cure and prevent megaloblastic anaemia. Riboflavin enhances the haematological response to iron, and its deficiency may account for a significant proportion of anaemia in many populations. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of dietary iron, although population-based data showing its efficacy in reducing anaemia or iron deficiency are lacking. Vitamin E supplementation given to preterm infants has not reduced the severity of the anaemia of prematurity. Vitamin B6 effectively treats sideroblastic anaemia. Multivitamin supplementation may raise haemoglobin (Hb) concentration, but few studies have isolated the effect of multivitamins from iron on haematological status.
Conclusions: In general, the public health impact of vitamin supplementation in controlling anaemia is not clear. Neither are the complex interactions involving multiple vitamins in haematopoiesis sufficiently understood to explain the observed variability in haematological responses to vitamins by age, population, vitamin mixture and dosages. Further research is needed to understand the roles of individual and combined vitamin deficiencies on anaemia to design appropriate micronutrient interventions to prevent anaemia.