Vitamin A supplementation and serum Th1- and Th2-associated cytokine response in women

J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(4):280-5. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.816616.


Aims and background: T helper (Th)1/Th2 immune response has been linked to obesity-related immune disorders. It has been proven that retinoid active derivates improve immunity via regulating Th1/Th2 balance. However, there is not a well-identified report of direct effect of vitamin A on Th1/Th2 balance in obesity. The present study aimed to investigate the possible role of vitamin A on serum Th1/Th2 response in obese women.

Materials and methods: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial was conducted on 84 obese (n = 56; body mass index [BMI] 30-39.9 kg/m(2)) and nonobese (n = 28; BMI 18.5-24.9 kg/m(2)) women. Obese women were randomly allocated to receive either vitamin A (retinyl palmitate 25,000 IU/d) or placebo. Nonobese women also received 25,000 IU/d retinyl palmitate. Anthropometric variables were assessed and serum interleukin (IL)-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, IL-4, and IL-13 were analyzed before and 4 months after intervention.

Results: Vitamin A treatment significantly reduced serum concentrations of IL-1β in obese vitamin A-treated subjects (from 3.58 ± 0.36 to 2.45 ± 0.23 pg/ml, p < 0.006). Serum concentrations of IL-4 and IL-13 were also reduced in obese and nonobese vitamin A-treated subjects (p < 0.05). A significant reduction in IL-1β/IL-4 ratio in the obese vitamin A-treated group was also observed (p = 0.03).

Conclusions: Decline in serum concentrations of IL-1β and IL-1β/IL-4 ratio in obese women suggests that vitamin A is capable of regulating the immune system and possibly reducing the risk of autoimmune disease in this group. Further studies are needed to explore the possible underlying mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Diterpenes
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-13 / blood
  • Interleukin-1beta / blood
  • Interleukin-4 / blood
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Retinyl Esters
  • Th1-Th2 Balance / drug effects*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood
  • Vitamin A / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin A / analogs & derivatives*


  • Cytokines
  • Diterpenes
  • Interleukin-13
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Retinyl Esters
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Vitamin A
  • retinol palmitate
  • Interleukin-4