Anemia is a worldwide public health problem that can be related to many causes, including vitamin A deficiency. The aim of this study was to assess and estimate the effect of vitamin A supplementation (VAS) on iron status biomarkers and anemia in humans. Six databases, including Cochrane, EMBASE, LILACS, Pubmed, Scopus and Web of Science, were searched for clinical trials and cohort studies that investigated the effect of vitamin A supplementation alone on iron status and anemia, without time-restriction. The search yielded 23 eligible studies, 21 clinical trials and 2 cohort studies, with children, teenagers, pregnant or lactating women. The meta-analysis of the clinical trials showed that VAS reduces the risk of anemia by 26% and raises hemoglobin levels, compared to non-treated group, independent of the life stage. VAS did not alter the prevalence of iron deficiency among the clinical trials conducted with children and teenagers (RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.60 to 1.12, p = 0.204), whereas a significant increase in serum ferritin levels was observed in trials conducted with pregnant and lactating women (WMD 6.61 μg/L; 95% CI 6.00 to 7.21 μg/L; p < 0.001). Therefore, vitamin A supplementation alone may reduce the risk of anemia, by improving hemoglobin and ferritin levels in individuals with low serum retinol levels.
Keywords: Review; anemia; iron deficiency; iron status; supplementation; vitamin A supplementation.