As if Vitamin A weren’t impressive enough! This superhero among nutrients, which is commonly referred to as retinol by anti-aging experts, is famous for supporting bright eyes, glowing skin, and luxurious hair while boosting the immune system (to name just a few of its superpowers). Now, a study out of Austrian medical school, MediUni Vienna, suggests that Vitamin A may actually support weight loss, particularly as the weather gets colder.
The study, which was published last month in the scientific journal, Molecular Metabolism, demonstrates that vitamin A stimulates a fat-burning process known by endocrinologists as “browning.” Browning refers to the conversion of white fat tissue (the fat that accumulates on our bellies, thighs, and bottoms when we eat more calories than we burn) into brown fat tissue. Brown fat tissue, which makes up less than 10 percent of the fat in our bodies, actually burns energy (aka calories), thereby generating heat. (Related: 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.)
The research scientists, led by Florian Kiefer, MD, PhD, from MedUni Vienna’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, subjected mice, as well as human volunteers, to moderately cold temperatures and then evaluated their serum blood levels of vitamin A. What the researchers observed was that exposure to the cold appeared to stimulate redistribution of vitamin A from the liver (where it’s stored) towards fatty tissue, where it led to observable browning, and a resulting higher rate of fat burning.
“We already knew from studies on animals that severe vitamin A deficiency is linked to weight gain,” Dr. Kiefer tells Eat This Not That! “We also knew that vitamin A supplementation has been shown to be helpful in counteracting that.” What is still not known is how to get the vitamin A to go where it needs to go, when it needs to go there. However, this study suggests that identifying a way to properly coordinate vitamin A transport to fat cells could lead to new therapeutic interventions in the battle against obesity.
In the meantime, go ahead and enjoy all the sweet potatoes, carrots, and other vitamin A-rich foods your heart desires because the benefits of this powerful nutrient are real. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for more weight loss news.