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Role of Vitamin A in maintaining a healthy heart

Posted:  Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The role of vitamin A in maintaining healthy vision and skin is well established. However, details about the impact of vitamin A on the heart remain nebulous. A new study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, has revealed that the heart is responsive to vitamin A and that the amount of vitamin A present in body influences the functioning of the heart.

A multi-institutional research team headed by Dr. Mary Ann Asson-Batres investigated the presence of retinoic acid receptors in the heart. The preclinical study demonstrated the presence of retinoic acid receptor proteins in heart cells, which indicated that the heart is responsive to vitamin A.

The animal study involved genetically modified mice that could not store vitamin A in their livers. Consequently, vitamin A deficiency was induced in the genetically modified mice by feeding them a vitamin A-deficient diet. The study results indicated an alteration in the functioning of the heart in response to vitamin A deficiency.

The size and shape of hearts from the genetically modified mice were similar to that of normal mice. However, they expressed different genes, which were attributed to a vitamin A-deficient diet. The genetically modified mice showed the presence of more cells that could replace damaged heart cells following a surgically induced heart attack; even when they were provided vitamin A in their diet.

Dr. Asson-Batres explained, “Our study suggests a surprising alternative outcome for vitamin A mobilization. Instead of being beneficial, the increased use of vitamin A after a heart attack may actually impair the heart's ability to generate new cells that could provide needed repair factors or cells that could prevent tissue damage.”

The mammalian body can manipulate vitamin A in harmful ways. Further research may be directed towards how the body maintains an appropriate balance of vitamin A during healthy and diseased states.

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