Vitamin A status in acute exacerbations of cystic fibrosis

Christopher Duggan, Andrew A. Colin, Ahmad Agil, Laurie Higgins, Nader Rifai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for epithelial cell maintenance and repair, and it is known that infectious stresses may depress plasma vitamin A concentrations. Patients with cystic fibrosis are at risk for vitamin A deficiency because of fat malabsorption as well as for the inflammatory stresses of pulmonary exacerbations of their underlying disease. We therefore hypothesized that acute pulmonary exacerbations of CF would depress plasma retinol concentrations, and that these concentrations would return to baseline values when clinical symptoms improved. We prospectively studied 35 CF patients (mean age: 24.2 y) consecutively admitted with pulmonary exacerbations. Plasma retinol, vitamin E, retinol binding protein (RBP), and C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations were measured on hospital admission and discharge. Dietary intake was measured by using a semiquantitative food- frequency questionnaire. Regression analysis was used to identify significant clinical and laboratory correlates of retinol concentrations. On admission, mean (± SD) concentrations of plasma retinol were 1.14 ± 0.5 μmol/L compared with 1.70 ± 0.6 μmol/L on discharge (P = 0.0001). Of 35 subjects, 8 (22.9%) had plasma retinol concentrations considered to be in the deficient range (< 0,70 μmol/L). Concurrently, mean concentrations of plasma RBP increased during hospital admission (from 1.46 to 2.24 μmol/L, P = 0.003), and the mean CRP concentration declined (from 25.7 to 9.8 mg/L, P = 0.002). Significant positive correlations were found between plasma retinol concentrations at admission and age, weight, body mass index, triceps- skinfold-thickness percentile, midupper arm circumference percentile, plasma vitamin E, and RBP concentration, thus suggesting that better-nourished patients had more optimal vitamin A status. At admission, plasma retinol concentrations were negatively correlated with maximum body temperature and CRP concentrations, which indicated that the body's acute-phase response was associated with the depression in retinol concentrations. We conclude that plasma retinol concentrations are depressed in acute pulmonary exacerbations of cystic fibrosis, and that concentrations considered to be in the deficient range are common. Vitamin A metabolism during acute inflammatory stress deserves further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-639
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • C-reactive protein
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • micronutrient status in infections
  • pulmonary disease
  • retinol binding protein
  • vitamin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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