Vitamin A supplementation and child survival

Lancet. 1992 Aug 1;340(8814):267-71. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(92)92357-l.


Previous studies of the effect of 6-monthly vitamin A supplementation on child mortality have given conflicting results. In other trials, more frequent doses of vitamin A have significantly reduced mortality among children at risk of vitamin A deficiency. We have done a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin A supplementation in the Sudan among 28,753 children aged 9-72 months at risk of vitamin A deficiency. Children were assigned to receive either 200,000 IU vitamin A and 40 IU vitamin E every 6 months (vitamin A group) or 40 IU vitamin E alone (placebo group). During the 18 months of follow-up, there were 120 deaths (8.4/1000) in the vitamin A group and 112 (7.9/1000) in the placebo group (relative risk 1.06, 95% confidence interval 0.82-1.37). Controlling for geographic site, round of observation, anthropometry, morbidity, dietary intake of vitamin A, sex, and all baseline differences between the two groups did not change the results. Children living in poor and unsanitary environments, younger children, and those sick, stunted, wasted, or consuming diets low in vitamin A were at a significantly higher risk of dying. The lack of an effect of large-dose vitamin A supplementation on mortality, despite a clear association between dietary vitamin A and mortality, underscores the need to identify factors that modify the efficacy of vitamin A supplements as a public-health measure. Reducing poverty, improvements in sanitation, and access to adequate diets should remain the main goals to improve child survival.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Poverty
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sudan
  • Vitamin A / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin A / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / drug therapy*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / mortality


  • Vitamin A