Vitamin A

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Vitamin A

Post by drnguyen on Sat Oct 09, 2010 12:50 pm

Vitamin A is a vitamin that is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal, that is absolutely necessary for both scotopic and color vision. Vitamin A also functions in a very different role, as an irreversibly oxidized form of retinol known as retinoic acid, which is an important hormone-like growth factor for epithelial and other cells.

In foods of animal origin, the major form of vitamin A is an ester, primarily retinyl palmitate, which is converted to an alcohol (retinol) in the small intestine. The retinol form functions as a storage form of the vitamin, and can be converted to and from its visually active aldehyde form, retinal. The associated acid (retinoic acid), a metabolite that can be irreversibly synthesized from vitamin A, has only partial vitamin A activity, and does not function in the retina for the visual cycle.

All forms of vitamin A have a beta-ionone ring to which an isoprenoid chain is attached, called a retinyl group. Both structural features are essential for vitamin activity.[1] The orange pigment of carrots - beta-carotene - can be represented as two connected retinyl groups, which are used in the body to contribute to vitamin A levels. Alpha-carotene and gamma-carotene also have a single retinyl group, which give them some vitamin activity. None of the other carotenes have vitamin activity. The carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin possesses an ionone group and has vitamin activity in humans.

Vitamin A can be found in two principal forms in foods:

* retinol, the form of vitamin A absorbed when eating animal food sources, is a yellow, fat-soluble substance. Since the pure alcohol form is unstable, the vitamin is found in tissues in a form of retinyl ester. It is also commercially produced and administered as esters such as retinyl acetate or palmitate.

* The carotenes alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene; and the xanthophyll beta-cryptoxanthin (all of which contain beta-ionone rings), but no other carotenoids, function as vitamin A in herbivores and omnivore animals, which possess the enzyme required to convert these compounds to retinal. In general, carnivores are poor converters of ionine-containg carotenoids, and pure carnivores such as cats and ferrets lack beta-carotene 15,15'-monooxygenase and cannot convert any carotenoids to retinal (resulting in none of the carotenoids being forms of vitamin A for these species).


* 1 History
* 2 Equivalencies of retinoids and carotenoids (IU)
* 3 Recommended daily intake
* 4 Sources
* 5 Metabolic functions
o 5.1 Vision
o 5.2 Gene transcription
o 5.3 Dermatology
o 5.4 Retinal/retinol versus retinoic acid
* 6 Deficiency
o 6.1 Vitamin A Supplementation
* 7 Toxicity
* 8 Vitamin A and derivatives in medical use
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links

[edit] History

The discovery of vitamin A may have stemmed from research dating back to 1906, indicating that factors other than carbohydrates, proteins, and fats were necessary to keep cattle healthy.[2] By 1917 one of these substances was independently discovered by Elmer McCollum at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Lafayette Mendel and Thomas Burr Osborne at Yale University. Since "water-soluble factor B" (Vitamin B) had recently been discovered, the researchers chose the name "fat-soluble factor A" (vitamin A).[2] Vitamin A was first synthesized in 1947 by two Dutch chemists, David Adriaan van Dorp and Jozef Ferdinand Arens. Contrary to a long-term academic misconception, spinach was promoted, not for its iron content but for its provitamin-A content during the US infant nutrition crisis of the 1920s and 30's by E. C. Segar the originator of Popeye (see: Spinach Popeye Iron Decimal Error Myth).
[edit] Equivalencies of retinoids and carotenoids (IU)

As some carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A, attempts have been made to determine how much of them in the diet is equivalent to a particular amount of retinol, so that comparisons can be made of the benefit of different foods. The situation can be confusing because the accepted equivalences have changed. For many years, a system of equivalencies in which an international unit (IU) was equal to 0.3 μg of retinol, 0.6 μg of β-carotene, or 1.2 μg of other provitamin-A carotenoids was used.[3] Later, a unit called retinol equivalent (RE) was introduced. 1 RE corresponded to 1 μg retinol, 2 μg β-carotene dissolved in oil (it is only partly dissolved in most supplement pills, due to very poor solubility in any medium), 6 μg β-carotene in normal food (because it is not absorbed as well as when in oils), and 12 μg of either α-carotene, γ-carotene, or β-cryptoxanthin in food (these molecules only provide 50% of the retinol as β-carotene, due to only half the molecule's being convertible to usable vitamin).

Newer research has shown that the absorption of provitamin-A carotenoids is only half as much as previously thought, so in 2001 the US Institute of Medicine recommended a new unit, the retinol activity equivalent (RAE). 1 μg RAE corresponds to 1 μg retinol, 2 μg of β-carotene in oil, 12 μg of "dietary" beta-carotene, or 24 μg of the three other dietary provitamin-A carotenoids.[4]

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