The hypothesis of this article is that late onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) is influenced by the availability in brain of retinoic acid (RA), the final product of the vitamin A (retinoid) metabolic cascade. Genetic, metabolic, and environmental/dietary evidence is cited supporting this hypothesis. Significant genetic linkages to AD are demonstrated for markers close to four of the six RA receptors, RA receptor G at 12q13, retinoid X receptor B at 6p21.3, retinoid X receptor G at 1q21, and RA receptor A at 17q21. Three of the four retinol-binding proteins at 3q23 and 10q23 and the RA-degrading cytochrome P450 enzymes at 10q23 and 2p13 map to AD linkages. Synthesis of the evidence supports retinoid hypofunction and impaired transport as contributing factors. These findings suggest testable experiments to determine whether increasing the availability of retinoid in brain, possibly through pharmacologic targeting of the RA receptors and the cytochrome P450 RA-inactivating enzymes, can prevent or decrease amyloid plaque formation.