In a staggering report in the British Medical Journal, experts estimate that as many as 600,000 lives could be saved in a year if vitamin A supplements were given to children under the age of 5 in developing countries.
The World Health Organization estimates that, across the globe, 190 million children under the age of 5 may have vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is traditionally found in cheese, eggs, liver and oily fish.
In an examination of 43 international studies, involving 200,000 children, United Kingdom and Pakistani experts found that deaths could be cut by 24 percent if children were given the vitamin.
"Vitamin A supplements are highly effective and cheap to produce and administer," said Dr. Evan Mayo-Wilson from Oxford University. "After just one year, children who had taken supplements were less likely to have died than children who received a placebo."
According to the report, worldwide nearly 8.8 million children die each year before they reach their fifth birthday. More than two-thirds die from conditions like pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.