TitleVitamin A and Vitamin E: Will the Real Antioxidant Please Stand Up?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsBlaner WS, Shmarakov IO, Traber MG
JournalAnnu Rev Nutr
Date Published2021 Oct 11
KeywordsAntioxidants, Humans, Tretinoin, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamins

Vitamin A, acting through its metabolite, all--retinoic acid, is a potent transcriptional regulator affecting expression levels of hundreds of genes through retinoic acid response elements present within these genes. However, the literature is replete with claims that consider vitamin A to be an antioxidant vitamin, like vitamins C and E. This apparent contradiction in the understanding of how vitamin A acts mechanistically within the body is a major focus of this review. Vitamin E, which is generally understood to act as a lipophilic antioxidant protecting polyunsaturated fatty acids present in membranes, is often proposed to be a transcriptional regulator. The evaluation of this claim is another focus of the review. We conclude that vitamin A is an indirect antioxidant, whose indirect function is to transcriptionally regulate a number of genes involved in mediating the body's canonical antioxidant responses. Vitamin E, in addition to being a direct antioxidant, prevents the increase of peroxidized lipids that alter both metabolic pathways and gene expression profiles within tissues and cells. However, there is little compelling evidence that vitamin E has a direct transcriptional mechanism like that of vitamin A. Thus, we propose that the term antioxidant not be applied to vitamin A, and we discourage the use of the term transcriptional mediator when discussing vitamin E.

Alternate JournalAnnu Rev Nutr
PubMed ID34115520
Grant ListR01 DK068437 / DK / NIDDK NIH HHS / United States
R01 DK122071 / DK / NIDDK NIH HHS / United States
R21 AA028110 / AA / NIAAA NIH HHS / United States