Plasma Retinol Kinetics and β-Carotene Bioefficacy Are Quantified by Model-Based Compartmental Analysis in Healthy Young Adults with Low Vitamin A Stores1,2

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Model-based compartmental analysis of data on plasma retinol kinetics after administration of labeled retinol provides unique information about whole-body vitamin A metabolism. If labeled β-carotene is coadministered, its bioefficacy relative to the retinol reference dose can also be estimated.


The objectives were to model plasma retinol kinetics after administration of labeled preformed vitamin A and provitamin A β-carotene and to determine relative β-carotene bioefficacy.


We used the Simulation, Analysis and Modeling software (WinSAAM version 3.0.8; to analyze previously collected data on plasma [13C10]- and [13C5]retinol kinetics for 14 d after oral administration of 1 mg [13C10] retinyl acetate and 2mg [13C10]β-carotene in oil to 30 healthy young adults of European ancestry [13 men, 17 women; mean ± SD age: 24.5 ± 4.2 y; mean ± SD body weight: 65.2 ± 10 kg; mean ± SD body mass index (in kg/m2): 22.5 ± 1.9] with moderate vitamin A intakes.


A 6-component model provided the best fit to the data, including compartments for initial metabolism of vitamin A, plasma retinol, and extravascular vitamin A storage. The disposal rate was 6.7 ± 3.1 μmol/d, fractional catabolic rate was 6.0% ± 2.3%/d, and vitamin A stores were 123 ± 71 μmol. Relative β-carotene bioefficacy, based on the ratio of the areas under the fraction of dose curves calculated by WinSAAM, averaged 13.5% ± 6.02% (retinol activity equivalents = 7.7:1.0 μg). Interindividual variation in relative β-carotene bioefficacy was high (CV: 44%).


Vitamin A kinetics in these young adults were best described by essentially the same model that had been previously developed by using data for older adults with higher vitamin A stores; differences in parameter values reflected differences in vitamin A status. Estimated β-carotene bioefficacy was relatively low but similar to previously reported estimates obtained by graphical methods. This trial was registered at the UK Clinical Research Network as UKCRN 7413.

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