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Obesity can cause Vitamin A Deficiency in Major Organs, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 06, 2015 02:04 PM EST

Obesity, a disease that has been linked to numerous health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, might also be hindering the body from properly absorbing vitamin A, a new study reported.

According to researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine, obesity is causing vitamin A deficiencies in major organs. The body needs vitamin A for several functions, such as wound healing and immune responses. When people have a deficiency, they have a greater risk of developing respiratory infections, diabetes, and infertility.

For this study, the researchers fed healthy-weight and obese mice a diet with a normal about of vitamin A. The researchers then checked the mice's vitamin A levels and found that in the healthy-weight mice, their levels were normal. In the obese mice, however, they had vitamin A deficiencies in their livers, kidneys and pancreas.

The researchers noted that when the obese mice lost weight, their vitamin A levels increased. The researchers also pointed out that when they measure vitamin A levels from blood samples, the results came back normal in obese mice. Due to the fact that the levels were low in specific organs, the researchers called the condition "silent vitamin A deficiency."

"Our research shows that, even if an obese animal consumes normal amounts of vitamin A, they have deficiencies of the vitamin A in major organs," said first author Dr. Steven Trasino, a postdoctoral fellow in pharmacology at Cornell. "Obesity is categorized as a state of malnutrition, typically associated with consumption of too many calories and poor intake of essential nutrients. Our data expand on that definition by showing that obesity plays a role in the body's ability to use this essential nutrient properly."

Senior author Dr. Lorraine Gudas, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and the Revlon Pharmaceutical Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Weill Cornell Medicine, added, "Something about the state of obesity is impairing the body's ability to use vitamin A correctly."

The researchers stressed that more research into the relationship between obesity and vitamin A levels in organs need to be done.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

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