Vitamin A, found in eggs, butter, milk and liver can reduce deaths from diarrhoea by one third, from measles by half and alleviates malaria. It apparently inhibits transfer of the HIV virus from mother to child as well. Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness. This form of nutritional blindness is prevalent is countries that rely on rice as a staple. Milling the rice removes the germ and leaves it poor in Vitamin A and other essential micro-nutrients. In 1997, more than 60% of children worldwide were receiving vitamin A supplements. Large-scale programmes are under way to ensure that all children have adequate vitamin A. In Central America, vitamin A is added to sugar. In many Asian countries, capsules are provided through immunization systems. In some countries, campaigns are promoting knowledge about foods rich in vitamin A. High population countries where large-scale programmes to reduce vitamin A deficiency are being implemented include Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Viet Nam.
Researchers have found the vitamin A compound, 4-HPR, can significantly decrease telomerase activity in smokers. Telomerase is an enzyme that is a key factor in cancer development and an active in up to 90 percent of lung cancers.
Eating vitamin E has been shown to reduce dramatically the risk of heart attack, and to succeed at this better than standard heart treatments such as aspirin and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Foods rich in vitamin E are a natural staple of the Mediterranean diet.
An article in The Lancet (2001) reported that eating a diet rich in vitamin-C can significantly reduce the risk of death from all causes. The study of nearly 20,000 people revealed that just one extra serving of fruit or vegetables per day was associated with a 20% lower risk of death regardless of age, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking habits, diabetes and use of dietary supplements. Furthermore, the risk of death was reduced by 50% for those with the highest blood levels of vitamin-C compared to individuals with the lowest levels. The study findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that a diet rich in vitamin-C is linked to improved health and a longer life.