Vitamin A supplements could reduce the levels of a marker for inflammation by 30 per cent, particularly among the young.
The vitamin is thought to aid the immune system in fighting certain infections and inflammations, such as measles and infections caused by some food-poisoning organisms. Indeed, the impact of vitamin A supplements on diarrhea in children is reported to be due to an effect on the immune response in the intestine. The body’s response to a gastrointestinal infection by organisms such as E. coli is inflammation, which reduces the colon’s ability to absorb water and results in diarrhea.
The new science, published in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition (Vol. 136, pp. 2600-2605), looked at the effect of vitamin A supplements on levels of the molecule, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), which is associated with a state of increased inflammation. The researchers, from ten different universities and hospitals in the US and Mexico including Harvard, the University of Texas, and the Universidad Autonoma de Queretero, recruited 127 Mexican children between the ages of 5 and 15 months and randomly assigned them to receive either a vitamin A supplement or a placebo at two month intervals.
“Overall, children who received the vitamin A supplement had reduced fecal concentrations of MCP-1 compared with children in the placebo group,” reported lead author Kurt Long from Harvard School of Public Health. Reduce levels of MCP-1 is associated with less inflammation, which in term suggests less diarrhoea. The supplementation also impacted on MCP-1 levels in children with infections, like the bacteria Escherichia coli or the human roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides. For children infected with E. coli and given the vitamin A supplement, MCP-1 levels were 62 per cent lower than the placebo group, while children infected with A. lumbricoides had MCP-1 levels 38 per cent lower after vitamin A supplementation than placebo. “These findings suggest that vitamin A has an anti-inflammatory effect in the gastrointestinal tract by reducing MCP-1 concentrations,” concluded the researchers.
Bonnie - for the bad rap vitamin A has been getting, we see here why it is such an important nutrient.