The Adverse Effects of Alcohol on Vitamin A Metabolism

Clugston, Robin D.; Blaner, William S.

The objective of this review is to explore the relationship between alcohol and the metabolism of the essential micronutrient, vitamin A; as well as the impact this interaction has on alcohol-induced disease in adults. Depleted hepatic vitamin A content has been reported in human alcoholics, an observation that has been confirmed in animal models of chronic alcohol consumption. Indeed, alcohol consumption has been associated with declines in hepatic levels of retinol (vitamin A), as well as retinyl ester and retinoic acid; collectively referred to as retinoids. Through the use of animal models, the complex interplay between alcohol metabolism and vitamin A homeostasis has been studied; the reviewed research supports the notion that chronic alcohol consumption precipitates a decline in hepatic retinoid levels through increased breakdown, as well as increased export to extra-hepatic tissues. While the precise biochemical mechanisms governing alcohol’s effect remain to be elucidated, its profound effect on hepatic retinoid status is irrefutable. In addition to a review of the literature related to studies on tissue retinoid levels and the metabolic interactions between alcohol and retinoids, the significance of altered hepatic retinoid metabolism in the context of alcoholic liver disease is also considered.


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February 26, 2014