Vitamins as effective as drugs for children with delayed growth

Constitutional Growth Delay (CGD) is a primary cause of short stature in children. It can also cause delayed onset of puberty in boys and, less frequently, in girls. This condition is characterized by slow growth until age 3. The growth rate then normalizes, but children continue to have short stature. Bone development is also affected and may results in increased rates of fractures later in life.

Physicians commonly prescribe growth hormone and/or testosterone for this condition to help accelerate growth and development. While hormone therapy is effective, it presents some long-term risks, including severe liver disease with prolonged use.

A recent study of children with CGD compared the effectiveness of various interventions. Three groups of children were given different hormone combinations and doses, while a fourth group was given a supplement containing vitamin A and iron. The vitamin A was given at a dose of 6,000 IU per week, and the iron at 13 mg per day. A fifth group received a placebo.

Both vitamin A and iron are essential for normal growth and previous investigation indicated that children with CGD have decreased levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A is also critical for sexual maturation.

The study (Clin Endocrinol 2004 Jun; 60 (6): 682-7) found that children receiving the vitamin A and iron experienced accelerated growth and development comparable to that of children on hormones and greatly superior to the placebo group.