Vitamin D improves weight gain, brain development in malnourished children: study

Daily News Egypt
4 Min Read

A high dose of vitamin D supplements improves weight gain and the development of language and motor skills in malnourished children, according to a new research study led by the University of the Punjab, Pakistan, and Queen Mary University of London. It is known that vitamin D—the “sunshine” vitamin—is well known for its beneficial effects on bone and muscle health and a study by Queen Mary researchers last year found that it could also protect against the common cold and the flu. The new study reveals further benefits of vitamin D.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, conducted in Pakistan,  estimated that 1.4 million children live with severe acute malnutrition and are at an increased risk of long-term effects on their physical and mental health. It revealed that high-energy food sachets are the standard treatment for the condition, but they contain relatively modest amounts of vitamin D.

Javeria Saleem from University of the Punjab and Queen Mary University of London, who led the research, said that high doses of vitamin D significantly boosted weight gain in malnourished children. This could be a game-changer in the management of severe acute malnutrition, which affects 20 million children worldwide.

“This is the first clinical trial in humans to show that vitamin D can affect brain development, lending weight to the idea that vitamin D has important effects on the central nervous system,” said Adrian Martineau from Queen Mary University of London, who was involved in the study.

“Further trials in other settings are now needed to see whether our findings can be reproduced elsewhere. We are also planning a larger trial in Pakistan to investigate whether high-dose vitamin D could reduce mortality in children with severe malnutrition,” Martineau said.

In the study, 185 severely malnourished children aged six to 58 months were treated with an eight-week course of high-energy food sachets and were also randomised to either receive additional high-dose vitamin D (two doses of 200,000 international units/5 milligrams, given by mouth) or placebo. After eight weeks, vitamin D supplementation led to clinically significant improvements in weight (on average gaining an extra 0.26 kg compared to the control group).

Vitamin D supplementation also resulted in substantial reductions in the proportion of children with delayed motor development, delayed language development, and delayed global development (reaching certain milestones such as learning to walk or talk), according to the paper.

“Our findings could be a great help to the Health Ministry of Pakistan in dealing with the issue of malnutrition,” Rubeena Zakar from University of the Punjab, who was involved in the research, said.

The researchers said that their study has some limitations, including that it did not look at varying the dose of vitamin D to see if a lower dose would have been sufficient to boost weight gain and brain development. Meanwhile, they saw no overt adverse reactions, yet the possibility of having side effects arising with clinical use of this high dose of vitamin D cannot be excluded.

Share This Article
Leave a comment