Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Vitamin A for Moms Helps Nursing Infants

Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Vitamin A for Moms Helps Nursing Infants

Article excerpt

Providing vitamin A supplements to lactating mothers in developing countries significantly improves the vitamin A status of their nursing infants, potentially reducing the otherwise high risk of blindness and even death, according to a Cornell study.

In the first randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of high-dose vitamin A supplementation among lactating mothers, the nutrition researchers also found that many of the lactating women were marginally vitamin A deficient without supplementation. Previously, health officials had believed that only children were at risk for inadequate vitamin A.

"Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most prevalent and important nutritional deficiencies among children of less-developed countries because the vitamin's primary sources are animal products and green leafy vegetables, which are expensive, not always available, and often inadequately consumed by young children," explains Kathleen Rasmussen, associate professor of nutritional sciences.

As a result, some 6 million to 7 million children around the world may be suffering from mild vitamin A deficiency. The deficiency is the single largest cause of blindness worldwide. Of the 700,000 new cases of severe vitamin A deficiency among pre-school children each year, 60 percent of the children die and 250,000 of the survivors become blind or partially blind.

Numerous studies have shown that even mild vitamin A deficiency contributes to increased mortality and that vitamin A--deficient children die of measles, malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infection at much higher rates than other children.

Although many countries try to provide supplements to each child twice a year, infants are too young for the high doses given to older children. …

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