Effect of vitamin A deficiency on the immune response in obesity

Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 May;71(2):290-7. doi: 10.1017/S0029665112000079. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


Obesity has been associated with low-grade systemic inflammation and with micronutrient deficiencies. Obese individuals have been found to have lower vitamin A levels and lower vitamin A intake compared with normal-weight individuals. Vitamin A plays a major role in the immune function, including innate immunity, cell-mediated immunity and humoral antibody immunity. It has also been recognised recently that vitamin A has important regulatory functions. Vitamin A status has an important effect on the chronic inflammatory response. Vitamin A deficiency increases a T-helper type 1 (Th1) response, elevates levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increases the expression of leptin, resistin and uncoupling proteins (UCP) and promotes adipogenesis. The effect of vitamin A deficiency on obesity might be increasing the risk of fat deposition and also the risk of chronic inflammation associated with obesity. Supplementation with vitamin A in vitro and in animal models has been found to reduce concentrations of adipocytokines, such as leptin and resistin. In conclusion, vitamin A deficiency increases a Th1 response in the presence of obesity and thus, increases the inflammatory process involved in chronic inflammation and fat deposition. The metabolism of leptin and other adipocytokines may play a critical role in the effect of vitamin A deficiency in the inflammatory response observed in obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis / immunology
  • Adipokines / blood*
  • Adipose Tissue / immunology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects*
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / physiology*
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Vitamin A / immunology*
  • Vitamin A / pharmacology
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / complications*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / immunology


  • Adipokines
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Vitamin A