Alterations in vitamin A/retinoic acid homeostasis in diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance

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Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient for life and the phytochemical β-carotene, also known as pro-vitamin A, is an important dietary source of this vitamin. Vitamin A (retinol) is the parent compound of all bioactive retinoids but it is retinoic acid (RA) that is the active metabolite of vitamin A. The plasma concentration of retinol is maintained in a narrow range and its normal biological activities strictly regulated since excessive intake can lead to toxicity and thus also be detrimental to life. The present review will give an overview of how vitamin A homeostasis is maintained and move on to focus on the link between circulating vitamin A and metabolic disease states. Finally, we will examine how pharmacological or genetic alterations in vitamin A homeostasis and RA-signalling can influence body fat and blood glucose levels including a novel link to the liver secreted hormone fibroblast growth factor 21, an important metabolic regulator.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-602
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number4
Early online date27 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
EventNutrition Society Scottish Section Conference on ‘Phytochemicals and health: new perspectives on plant-based nutrition’: Symposium 3: Phytochemicals for healthier foods - The Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Mar 201622 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

The author would like to thank M. Delibegovic and P. McCaffery (both University of Aberdeen) for their helpful comments and proof reading in preparation of
this review.

Financial Support
Work in the author’s laboratory was supported by the British Heart Foundation Intermediate Basic Research Fellowship FS/09/026, The Royal Society (of London) grant, Tenovus Scotland grants G10/04 and G14/14 to N. Mody, University of Aberdeen Centre for Genome Enabled Biology and Medicine (CGEBM) PhD studentship to Nicola Morrice and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) studentship to George D. Mcilroy.


  • Retinoids
  • Adiposity
  • Glucose homeostasis
  • Ceramide
  • Fibroblast growth factor 21


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