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1 Vitamin A: Nutritional Aspects of Retinoids and Carotenoids

Authored by: Janos Zempleni , John W. Suttie , Jesse F. Gregory III , Patrick J. Stover , A. Catharine Ross Harrison , H. Earl

Handbook of Vitamins

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9781466515567
eBook ISBN: 9781466515574
Adobe ISBN:


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Vitamin A is now a century old, having first been identified in 1913 as an essential component of the diet in rodent studies by E.V. McCollum and Margurite Davis at the University of Wisconsin, and independently by Osborne and Mendel at Yale. Both groups were studying the effects of diets made from purified protein and carbohydrate sources such as casein and rice flour on the growth of young rats. They observed growth cessation and mortality in rats fed the purified diets, unless the diet was supplemented with butter, fish oils, or a quantitatively minor ether-soluble fraction extracted from these substances or milk or meats. “Fat soluble A” was soon recognized to also be extractable from yellow vegetables, and this substance was later identified as carotene. Early studies on vitamin A deficiency linked this nutritional state to specific disease conditions, including xerophthalmia, squamous metaplasia of epithelial and mucosal tissues, increased susceptibility to infections, and abnormalities of reproduction. Vitamin A was chemically identified, and retinol and β-carotene (β-C) were first synthesized, in the 1930s. In 1937, Paul Karrer, a Swiss chemist, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his investigations on carotenoids, vitamin A, and other natural compounds. Detailed reviews on the history of vitamin A can be found in Refs. [1] and [2].

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