Vitamin A

The Discovery

The discovery of Vitamin A stemmed from research dating back to 1906, indicating that factors other than carbohydrates, proteins, and fats were necessary to keep cattle healthy. By 1917 one of these substances was independently discovered by Elmer McCollum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Lafayette Mendel and Thomas Osborne at Yale University. Since "water-soluble factor B" had recently been discovered, the researchers chose the name "fat-soluble factor A". It was first synthesized in 1947 by two Dutch chemists, David Adriaan van Dorp and Jozef Ferdinand Arens.

What is it?

Vitamin A is an essential human nutrient. It actully refers to a group of similary shaped molecules call Retinoids. Its important part is the retinyl group, which can be found in several forms. In foods of animal origin, the major form is an ester, primarily retinyl palmitate, which is converted to an alcohol (retinol) in the small intestine. It can also exist as an aldehyde (retinal), or as an acid (retinoic acid). Precursors to this supplement are present in foods of plant origin as some members of the carotenoid family of compounds.

All forms of vitamin A have a Beta-ionone ring to which an isoprenoid chain is attached. This structure is essential for chemical activity. The orange pigment of carrot - Beta-carotene - can be represented as two connected retinyl groups. The retinyl group when attached to a specific protein, is the only primary light absorber in visual perception, and the compound name is related to the retina of the eye.

It can be found in various forms:

  • retinol, the form absorbed when eating animal food sources, is yellow and fat-soluble, it is important in vision and bone growth. Since the alcohol form is unstable, the supplement is usually produced and administered in a form of retinyl acetate or palmitate.

  • other retinoids, a class of chemical compounds that are related chemically, are used in medicine.

  • The Benefits

    This supplement plays a role in a variety of functions throughout the body such as:

  • Vision
  • Gene Transcription
  • Immune Function
  • Embryonic Development and Reproduction
  • Bone Metabolism
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Skin Health
  • Reducing Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer
  • Antioxidant Activity
  • Source:

    Much more than Vitamin A discussed back at the Natural Source Vitamins Homepage