Bioconversion of dietary provitamin A carotenoids to vitamin A in humans

Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1468S-1473S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.28674G. Epub 2010 Mar 3.


Recent progress in the measurement of the bioconversion of dietary provitamin A carotenoids to vitamin A is reviewed in this article. Methods to assess the bioavailability and bioconversion of provitamin A carotenoids have advanced significantly in the past 10 y, specifically through the use of stable isotope methodology, which includes the use of labeled plant foods. The effects of the food matrix on the bioconversion of provitamin A carotenoids to vitamin A, dietary fat effects, and the effect of genotype on the absorption and metabolism of beta-carotene have been reported recently. A summary of the major human studies that determined conversion factors for dietary beta-carotene to retinol is presented here, and these data show that the conversion efficiency of dietary beta-carotene to retinol is in the range of 3.6-28:1 by weight. There is a wide variation in conversion factors reported not only between different studies but also between individuals in a particular study. These findings show that the vitamin A value of individual plant foods rich in provitamin A carotenoids may vary significantly and need further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biotransformation
  • Carotenoids / adverse effects
  • Carotenoids / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cooking
  • Daucus carota / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Embryonic Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Male
  • Oryza
  • Spinacia oleracea / metabolism
  • Vegetables
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Vitamin A / metabolism*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / drug therapy
  • beta Carotene / metabolism
  • beta Carotene / therapeutic use


  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Carotenoids