Can vitamin a mediate immunity and inflammation?

J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2015 Jan-Mar;29(1):1-6.


Vitamins are natural components of foods and are organic compounds distinct from fat, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin A is the generic descriptor for compounds with the qualitative biological activity of retinol. Unlike beta-carotene, vitamin A is not an antioxidant and its benefit is related to possible boosting of immune reactions. The effect of vitamin A on immune function is wide-reaching and its deficiency appears to affect immunity in several ways. Innate and adaptive immune responses are affected in some way by lack of vitamin A. Retinoids seem to act on differentiation of lymphocytes, antibody production, phagocytosis of macrophages, NK, Treg, and T helper cell activity. In addition, in humans, signs of a vitamin A deficiency also include the dysregulation of cytokine/chemokine generation and release. However, excess of vitamin A has been demonstrated to have toxic effects in most species studied. Here we summarize some important effects of vitamin A in immunity and inflammation.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avitaminosis / immunology*
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology*
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Phagocytosis / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • Vitamin A / pharmacology*
  • Vitamin A / physiology*


  • Vitamin A
  • Carotenoids