The Relationship Between Vitamin A and Risk of Fracture: Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies


Address correspondence to: Yong-Long Chi, Department of Orthopaedics, Second Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, 109# Xue Yuan Xi Road, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China, 325000. E-mail:


Osteoporotic fracture is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality and is a challenging global health problem. Previous reports of the relation between vitamin A intake or blood retinol and risk of fracture were inconsistent. We searched Medline and Embase to assess the effects of vitamin A (or retinol or beta-carotene but not vitamin A metabolites) on risk of hip and total fracture. Only prospective studies were included. We pooled data with a random effects meta-analysis with adjusted relative risk (adj.RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI). We used Q statistic and I2 statistic to assess heterogeneity and Egger's test to assess publication bias. Eight vitamin A (or retinol or beta-carotene) intake studies (283,930 participants) and four blood retinol level prospective studies (8725 participants) were included. High intake of vitamin A and retinol were shown to increase risk of hip fracture (adj.RR [95% CI] = 1.29 [1.07, 1.57] and 1.40 [1.03, 1.91], respectively), whereas beta-carotene intake was not found to increase the risk of hip fracture (adj.RR [95% CI] = 0.82 [0.59, 1.14]). Both high or low level of blood retinol was shown to increase the risk of hip fracture (adj.RR [95% CI] = 1.87 [1.31, 2.65] and 1.56 [1.09, 2.22], respectively). The risk of total fracture does not differ significantly by level of vitamin A (or retinol) intake or by blood retinol level. Dose-response meta-analysis shows a U-shaped relationship between serum retinol level and hip fracture risk. Our meta-analysis suggests that blood retinol level is a double-edged sword for risk of hip fracture. To avoid the risk of hip fracture caused by too low or too high a level of retinol concentration, we suggest that intake of beta-carotene (a provitamin A), which should be converted to retinol in blood, may be better than intake of retinol from meat, which is directly absorbed into blood after intake. © 2014 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.