(Reuters Health) – A new study from Bangladesh has experts concluding that most of the world’s women don’t need vitamin A supplements.
In the developing Asian nation, giving vitamin A supplements to pregnant women in the rural north didn’t cut down on their chance of pregnancy-related death, or on infant deaths, according to a new study.
Still, the researchers say making sure pregnant women get enough vitamin A through diet or supplements is “an important public health goal” for other reasons.
But experts debate whether vitamin A supplements are helpful….
In the Bangladeshi study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Keith West of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and colleagues followed a population of about 600,000 people for more than five years.
The research team identified every household in that region that had a married woman between age 13 and 45. Every 5 weeks, female staff members visited those households to find out — through discussion and urine tests — if any of the women were pregnant.
If they were, the staff began giving them a weekly dose of vitamin A, beta carotene, or a vitamin-free placebo pill every week until 12 weeks after they gave birth. The staff also gave all women educational materials about care and diet during pregnancy. The assignments to the various groups were done randomly, based on household location.
There were about 60,000 pregnancies during the study period, with mothers evenly distributed between the vitamin A, beta carotene, and placebo supplements.
A total of 138 women in the study died of any pregnancy-related cause. That worked out to 20 to 25 women per 10,000 pregnancies, regardless of what supplement they were taking.
Rates of stillbirths and infant deaths also did not vary based on the type of supplements pregnant women were given. Each supplement group had between 45 and 51 stillbirths for every 1,000 births, and between 65 and 70 infant deaths in the 12 weeks after birth per 1,000 live births.
Read the full Reuters story here.
This is what Dr. Hill had to say of the news:
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is necessary for vision, immune function and bone metabolism. It is commonly found in meat, milk, eggs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach. Deficiencies in developed countries are extremely rare because vitamin A is easily available in the diet. Vitamin A is not currently part of prenatal vitamins because low levels are so uncommon in the U.S. I have never heard of birth defects or maternal death related to vitamin A deficiency because we never see it…