Posted on Jul 26, 2018, 12 a.m.
According to scientists from the University of Punjab and Queen Mary University high dose vitamin D supplements helped to improve weight gain and development of language and motor skills in malnourished children, as published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Well known for its beneficial effects on bone and muscle health the sunshine vitamin has been found by the researchers in a study last year to protect against flu and colds, now this new study is revealing even further benefits which could be key in management of severe acute malnutrition, in what could be the first clinical trial in humans to show vitamin D can affect brain development; lending weight (pun intended) to the idea that vitamin D holds important effects on the central nervous system.
The study took place in Pakistan where it is estimated that 1.4 million children are at elevated risk of long term effects on their physical as well as mental health due to living with severe acute malnutrition, an estimated 20 million children are affected worldwide. Standard treatment for the condition is high energy food sachets which contain relatively modest amounts of vitamin D.
185 severely malnourished children between the ages of 6 months to 5 years old were involved in this study who were treated with an 8 week course of high energy sachets and randomised to receive either an additional high dose vitamin D supplement of 2x 200,000 international units/5mg or a placebo. At the conclusion of 8 weeks the vitamin D group had clinically significant improvements in weight of on average an extra 0.26 kg; and substantial reductions in the proportion of children with delayed motor development, delayed language development, and delayed global development.
According to the researchers there were limitations such as it did not look at varying the dose to see if lower doses would have been sufficient in boosting weight gain and brain development. No overt adverse reactions were observed, but it was noted that the possibility of side effects arising with clinical use of vitamin D doses this high cannot be excluded.
Materials provided by Queen Mary University of London.
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Javeria Saleem, Rubeena Zakar, Muhammad Z Zakar, Mulugeta Belay, Marion Rowe, Peter M Timms, Robert Scragg, Adrian R Martineau. High-dose vitamin D3 in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition: a multicenter double-blind randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2018; 107 (5): 725 DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy027