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J Nutr. 2009 Feb;139(2):377-85. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.100198. Epub 2008 Dec 17.

Markers of innate immune function are associated with vitamin a stores in men.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Recommendations for vitamin A intake and liver stores are based on maintaining normal vision. We propose that higher levels may be required to maintain normal innate immune function. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an 8-wk residential study among 36 healthy Bangladeshi men with low vitamin A stores. Subjects were randomized to receive vitamin A (240 mg in 4 doses) or placebo during study wk 2 and 3. They received 2 vaccines during wk 5 and vitamin A stores were estimated by isotopic dilution at wk 8. The serum concentration of the chemokine interferon-gamma-induced protein 10, a component of T-helper 1 (Th1) response, increased significantly after supplementation and was positively and significantly associated with vitamin A stores. Blood concentrations of natural killer (NK) and NK T-cells, which have anticancer and antiviral activity, were positively associated with stores (P < 0.05), as was monocyte oxidative burst (P < 0.05), a marker of bacterial killing ability. However, serum interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-17, cytokines that regulate the antibacterial Th17 response, were significantly and negatively associated with stores, as was production of the regulatory cytokine IL-10 by whole-blood cultures stimulated with bacterial lipopolysaccharide. In summary, vitamin A stores were positively associated with several measures of innate immune activity across a broad range of stores, suggesting that vitamin A enhances protection against diverse pathogens even at concentrations above those needed to maintain normal vision. The negative association of stores with serum IL-6 and IL-17 suggests that not all protective responses are similarly enhanced by vitamin A.

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