How Dietary Deficiency Studies Have Illuminated the Many Roles of Vitamin A During Development and Postnatal Life

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MaineHealth Institute for Research

Journal Title

Sub-cellular biochemistry

MeSH Headings

Animals; Child Development; Diet (veterinary); Female; Humans; Infant, Newborn; Pregnancy; Pregnancy Complications (metabolism); Vertebrates (growth & development, metabolism); Vitamin A (physiology); Vitamin A Deficiency (metabolism)


Vitamin A deficiency studies have been carried out since the early 1900s. Initially, these studies led to the identification of fat soluble A as a unique and essential component of the diet of rodents, birds, and humans. Continuing work established that vitamin A deficiency produces biochemical and physiological dysfunction in almost every vertebrate organ system from conception to death. This chapter begins with a review of representative historical and current studies that used the nutritional vitamin A deficiency research model to gain an understanding of the many roles vitamin A plays in prenatal and postnatal development and well-being. This is followed by a discussion of recent studies that show specific effects of vitamin A deficiency on prenatal development and postnatal maintenance of the olfactory epithelium, brain, and heart. Vitamin A deficiency studies have helped define the necessity of vitamin A for the health of all vertebrates, including farm animals, but the breadth of deficient states and their individual effects on health have not been fully determined. Future work is needed to develop tools to assess the complete vitamin A status of an organism and to define the levels of vitamin A that optimally support molecular and systems level processes during all ages and stages of life.



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