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

October 8, 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)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

Cinnamon turns up the heat on fat cells

November 21, 2017
New research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has determined how a common holiday spice—cinnamon—might be enlisted in the fight against obesity.

New simple test could help cystic fibrosis patients find best treatment

November 21, 2017
Several cutting-edge treatments have become available in recent years to correct the debilitating chronic lung congestion associated with cystic fibrosis. While the new drugs are life-changing for some patients, they do not ...

Researchers discover key signaling protein for muscle growth

November 20, 2017
Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the importance of a well-known protein, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), in the development and regeneration of muscles. Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., ...

New breast cell types discovered by multidisciplinary research team

November 20, 2017
A joint effort by breast cancer researchers and bioinformaticians has provided new insights into the molecular changes that drive breast development.

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.