Too much of a good thing? Scientists explain cellular effects of vitamin A overdose and deficiency

Oct 08, 2009

If a little vitamin A is good, more must be better, right? Wrong! New research published online in the FASEB Journal shows that vitamin A plays a crucial role in energy production within cells, explaining why too much or too little has a complex negative effect on our bodies. This is particularly important as combinations of foods, drinks, creams, and nutritional supplements containing added vitamin A make an overdose more possible than ever before.

"Our work illuminates the value and potential harm of use in cosmetic creams and nutritional supplements," said Ulrich Hammerling, co-author of the study, from the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York. "Although vitamin A deficiency is not very common in our society, over-use of this vitamin could cause significant disregulation of energy production impacting cell growth and ."

Although the importance of vitamin A to human nutrition and fetal development is well-known, it has been unclear why vitamin A deficiencies and overdoses cause such widespread and profound harm to our organs, until now. The discovery by Hammerling and colleagues explains why these effects occur, while also providing insight into vitamin A's anti-cancer effects. The scientists used cultures from both human and mice cells containing specific of the chemical pathways involved in mitochondrial energy production. The cells were then grown with and without vitamin A, and scientists examined the impact on the various steps of energy production. Results showed that retinol, the key component of vitamin A, is essential for the metabolic fitness of and acts as a nutritional sensor for the creation of energy in cells. When there is too much or too little vitamin A, mitochondria do not function properly, wreaking havoc on our organs.

"Beauty might be only skin deep, but vitamin A isn't. It goes to the nucleus of our cells and can affect our health for better or worse," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the . "Using too many products enriched with vitamin A could lead to negative, even fatal, consequences."

More information: Rebeca Acin-Perez, Beatrice Hoyos, Feng Zhao, Valerie Vinogradov, Donald A. Fischman, Robert A. Harris, Michael Leitges, Nuttaporn Wongsiriroj, William S. Blaner, Giovanni Manfredi, and Ulrich Hammerling. Control of oxidative phosphorylation by vitamin A illuminates a fundamental role in mitochondrial energy homoeostasis FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.09-142281

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (news : web)

Explore further: The impact of bacteria in our guts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Variant of vitamin D receptor gene linked to melanoma risk

Sep 22, 2008

A new analysis indicates an association between a gene involved in vitamin D metabolism and skin cancer. Published in the November 1, 2008 issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study ...

Study shows vitamin C is essential for plant growth

Sep 24, 2007

Scientists from the University of Exeter and Shimane University in Japan have proved for the first time that vitamin C is essential for plant growth. This discovery could have implications for agriculture and for the production ...

Vitamin D found to fight placental infection

Dec 01, 2008

In a paper available at the online site of the journal Biology of Reproduction, a team of UCLA researchers reports for the first time that vitamin D induces immune responses in placental tissues by stimulating production of the ...

Recommended for you

The impact of bacteria in our guts

Aug 22, 2014

The word metabolism gets tossed around a lot, but it means much more than whether you can go back to the buffet for seconds without worrying about your waistline. In fact, metabolism is the set of biochemical ...

Stem cell therapies hold promise, but obstacles remain

Aug 22, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—In an article appearing online today in the journal Science, a group of researchers, including University of Rochester neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., review the potential and ch ...

New hope in fight against muscular dystrophy

Aug 22, 2014

Research at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology offers hope to those who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable, debilitating disease that cuts young lives short.

Biologists reprogram skin cells to mimic rare disease

Aug 21, 2014

Johns Hopkins stem cell biologists have found a way to reprogram a patient's skin cells into cells that mimic and display many biological features of a rare genetic disorder called familial dysautonomia. ...

User comments : 0