Severely Malnourished Children May Benefit From Vitamin D Supplement

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Javeria Saleem PhD

Department of Public Health, Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan
Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Queen Mary University of London
London, United Kingdom

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and visible form of undernutrition. Affected children have very low weight for their height and severe muscle wasting; they may also have swollen feet, face and limbs. Around 20 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition worldwide of whom an estimated 1.4 million live in Pakistan. The condition is a major cause of death in children under 5 in Asia and Africa. The standard treatment is to give a high-energy, micronutrient enhanced paste called ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF).

Vitamin D deficiency has been reported to be a risk factor for severe wasting in children with severe acute malnutrition Ready-to-use therapeutic food contains relatively modest amounts of vitamin D. However, the effects of adding high-dose vitamin D to this standard treatment have not previously been evaluated.

We therefore did a clinical trial to assess whether high-dose vitamin D hastened recovery in 185 children aged 6-58 months who were receiving standard treatment for severe acute malnutrition in Southern Punjab, Pakistan. The 93 children in the active arm of the study received two doses of 5 mg vitamin D by mouth, while the 92 children in the control arm received placebo (a dummy medicine containing no vitamin D).

Our findings were very striking: after 2 months of treatment, the children who received high-dose vitamin D in addition to standard therapy had significantly better weight gain, and significantly better motor and language development, than those who received standard treatment alone.

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