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Serum retinyl esters are positively correlated with analyzed total liver vitamin A reserves collected from US adults at time of death. Am J Clin Nutr 2018 Nov 01;108(5):997-1005



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Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85054541441 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   22 Citations


BACKGROUND: Minimal human data exist on liver vitamin A (VA) compared with serum biomarkers. Cutoffs of 5% and 10% total serum VA as retinyl esters (REs) suggest a VA intoxication diagnosis.

OBJECTIVES: We compared total liver VA reserves (TLRs) with the percentage of total serum VA as REs to evaluate hypervitaminosis with the use of US adult autopsy samples. Secondary objectives evaluated serum retinol sensitivity, TLRs among lobes, and hepatic α-retinol concentrations, an α-carotene cleavage product.

DESIGN: Matched serum and liver samples were procured from cadavers (n = 27; mean ± SD age: 70.7 ± 14.9 y; range: 49-101 y). TLRs and α-REs were quantified by ultra-performance liquid chromatography. Pearson correlations showed liver and serum associations. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated for >5%, 7.5%, and 10% total serum VA as REs to predict TLRs and for serum retinol <0.7 and 1 μmol/L to predict deficiency.

RESULTS: Serum RE concentrations were correlated with TLRs (r = 0.497, P < 0.001). Nine subjects (33%) had hypervitaminosis A (≥1.0 μmol VA/g liver), 2 of whom had >7.5% total serum VA as REs; histologic indicators corroborated toxicity at 3 μmol/g liver. No subject had >10% total serum VA as REs. Serum retinol sensitivity to determine deficiency (TLRs <0.1 μmol VA/g) was 83% at 0.7 and 1 μmol/L. Hepatic α-retinol was positively correlated with age (P = 0.047), but removing an outlier nullified significance.

CONCLUSIONS: This study evaluated serum REs as a biomarker of VA status against TLRs (gold standard), and abnormal histology suggested that 7.5% total serum VA as REs is diagnostic for toxicity at the individual level in adults. The long-term impact of VA supplements and fortificants on VA status is currently unknown. Considering the high prevalence of hypervitaminotic TLRs in this cohort, and given that many countries are adding preformed VA to processed products, population biomarkers diagnosing hypervitaminosis before toxicity are urgently needed. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.govas NCT03305042.

Author List

Olsen K, Suri DJ, Davis C, Sheftel J, Nishimoto K, Yamaoka Y, Toya Y, Welham NV, Tanumihardjo SA


Carley Davis MD Professor in the Urologic Surgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Aged, 80 and over
Cohort Studies
Dietary Supplements
Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
Food, Fortified
Hypervitaminosis A
Middle Aged
Vitamin A
Vitamin A Deficiency