Vitamin A Aids Memory
A study in mice suggests that vitamin A
plays an important role in learning and memory, a finding that
researchers say underscores concerns about vitamin A deficiency in
some 190 million children throughout the world.
Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La
Jolla, California, and elsewhere report in the December issue of the
journal Neuron that their evidence shows that vitamin A is essential
not only for proper development of the nervous system in a
developing embryo, but also for brain function throughout life.
In studies on mice, the researchers learned that certain cell
receptors for vitamin A also played a role in learning and memory.
When they bred a group of mice that lacked the genes for these two
specific receptors, they found that the mice performed poorly on
tests of spatial ability and memory.
The researchers believe that their evidence suggests that
"vitamin A is a type of molecular key that unlocks one of the
most powerful functions of the human brain," namely learning,
according to a press statement by Ronald Evans, Salk professor and
senior author of the study.
It is too early to suggest whether or not vitamin A supplements
could aid older patients suffering from memory problems related to
dementia, a spokeswoman for the institute told Reuters Health. The
research does not suggest that boosting amounts of vitamin A can
improve an individual's memory or learning ability, only that
complete absence of vitamin A is detrimental to brain function.
But the researchers' findings will probably lead to further research
on the role of vitamin A in learning and memory.
The report notes that nearly 190 million children around the world
have vitamin A deficiency, which puts them at risk for numerous
health problems, including stunted growth and blindness.