Giving vitamin A supplements to children under the age of five in developing countries could save 600,000 lives a year, researchers claim. Writing in the British Medical Journal, UK and Pakistani experts assessed 43 studies involving 200,000 children, and found deaths were cut by 24% if children were given the vitamin.And they say taking it would also cut rates of measles and diarrhoea.
The body needs vitamin A for the visual and immune systems to work properly.
It is found in foods including cheese, eggs, liver and oily fish.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, around the world, 190 million children under the age of five may have a vitamin A deficiency.
But despite widespread efforts, supplementation programmes do not reach all the children who could benefit.
Capsules are now distributed twice a year in at least 60 countries, with average annual coverage rates nearing 80%.
However, University of Oxford and Aga Khan University researchers who carried out this work say the effectiveness of vitamin A is so well-established that policy-makers should provide supplements to all children at risk.