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Gender differences in retinol metabolism are independent of β-carotene bioconversion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2013

Anthony Oxley
Affiliation:
Human Nutrition Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University, UK
Philip Berry
Affiliation:
Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University, UK
John Hesketh
Affiliation:
Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences; Newcastle University, UK
Alan V Boddy
Affiliation:
Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University, UK
Georg Lietz
Affiliation:
Human Nutrition Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University, UK
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Abstract

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Copyright © The Authors 2013 

Gender-related differences in retinol and provitamin A carotenoid metabolism have previously been detected, with higher retinol concentrations in men, and on the contrary, higher β-carotene concentrations in women( Reference Faure and Preziosi 1 ). This reversed relationship suggests a higher β-carotene to retinol conversion rate in males( Reference Faure and Preziosi 1 ). Furthermore, lower conversion efficiency is correlated with BMI in women, but not in men( Reference Tang and Qin 2 ). We investigated retinol metabolism and β-carotene conversion efficiency in 23 female and 19 male volunteers by co-administering 2 mg [13C10]-β-carotene and 1 mg [13C10]-retinyl acetate. Relative absorption of β-carotene in the first 24 hours represented 11% of total ingested [13C10]-β-carotene, with an inter-individual coefficient of variation of 49%. [13C10]-β-carotene plasma concentration within the first 24 hours post-dose were significantly inversely related to the ability to convert β-carotene into retinyl-palmitate (r=−0.89; p<0.001). More importantly, significantly higher plasma concentrations of preformed [13C10]-retinol and bio-converted [13C5]-retinol were found in men compared to women (Figure 1), although plasma [13C10]-β-carotene concentrations were similar between the genders. Interestingly, differences in retinoid concentrations are independent from the ability to cleave [13C10]-β-carotene, since both retinyl palmitate/β-carotene and the newly-formed retinoid reference dose ratios are not significantly different between men and women (Figure 1).

Fig. 1. Effect of gender on plasma retinol concentrations and provitamin A conversion efficiency (AUC=Area under the curve for the first 24 hours post-dose).

In summary, our isotope dilution technique revealed that men have higher circulating retinol concentrations compared to women, and that this difference is independent of provitamin A conversion efficiency. We hypothesize that a gender specific effect on metabolic flux between different tissues could explain this difference.

This work was supported by the BBSRC.

References

1. Faure, H, Preziosi, P et al. (2006) Eur J Clin Nutr 60(6), 706–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
2. Tang, G, Qin, J et al. (2003) Am J Clin Nutr 78(2), 259–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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