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J Nutr. 2004 Jan;134(1):290S-293S.

Assessing vitamin A status: past, present and future.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, UW-Madison, Madison, WI 53706-1571, USA.


Xerophthalmia classification was traditionally used to identify populations with vitamin A deficiency. Currently, night blindness and dark adaptometry have been proposed as population assessment methods. While eye signs and function tests are still used in areas where vitamin A deficiency is severe, a subclinical vitamin A deficiency is more prevalent. Serum and breast milk retinol concentrations are used to identify vitamin A deficiency risk. However, in healthy individuals, serum retinol concentrations are homeostatically controlled and do not begin to decline until liver reserves of vitamin A are dangerously low. Moreover, serum retinol and retinol binding protein (RBP) concentrations fall during times of infection. The RBP:transthyretin ratio may help to determine if serum retinol concentrations are depressed by infection. Other methods better reflect liver reserves of vitamin A, the "gold" standard. The relative dose response and modified relative dose response tests involve giving a small dose of retinyl or dehydroretinyl ester, respectively, and determining a response in the serum at about 5 h. A new response test where retinoyl beta-glucuronide is administered and the degree of hydrolysis to retinoic acid is measured has been investigated. Unlike isotope dilution tests, the dose response tests lack utility in defining the total body reserve of vitamin A. The deuterated retinol isotope dilution test has been used in several different groups. Recently, a new isotope assay was developed using 13C-retinyl acetate and gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry for analysis. Thus, having many choices of vitamin A assessment methods, laboratory sophistication and resources available will usually dictate which methods are chosen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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