Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 743–754 | Cite as

Vitamins A and E in liver, kidney, and whole blood of East Greenland polar bears sampled 1994–2008: reference values and temporal trends

  • T. Bechshoft
  • C. Sonne
  • J. Jakobsen
  • F. F. Rigét
  • E. W. Born
  • R. J. Letcher
  • B. M. Jenssen
  • R. Dietz
Original Paper


Vitamins A (retinol) and E (α-tocopherol) are dietary vitamins, essential for, e.g., growth and development, reproduction, and immune function. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have been found to be related to vitamin A and E metabolism. However, few investigations have been published on this health issue in polar bears (Ursus maritimus). The aim of this study was thus to provide reference values for concentrations of vitamin A in liver, kidney cortex, and whole blood and vitamin E in kidney cortex and whole blood from 166 East Greenland polar bears, as well as to assess the relationship between POPs and vitamin concentrations. In addition, vitamin concentrations were analyzed for temporal trends (1994–2008). Results showed vitamin A in liver to be higher in adult bears and the concentrations of vitamin E in kidney and blood to likewise be generally higher in adult bears. In addition, all analyzed contaminant groups were correlated with at least one of the vitamin parameters, predominantly in a negative way. Finally, vitamin A liver concentrations as well as concentration of vitamin E in kidney and blood showed a temporal increase. Together, these results add to the weight of evidence that POPs could be disrupting polar bear vitamin status. However, while the observed temporal increases in vitamin concentrations were likely POP related, the question remains as to whether they stem from influence of contaminants only or also, e.g., changes in prey species. Further studies are needed to tease apart the causes underlying these changes in vitamin concentrations.


Polar bear Ursus maritimus Retinol α-Tocopherol Persistent organic pollutant (POP) Temporal trend 



Jonas Brønlund and local hunters are acknowledged for organizing the sampling in East Greenland. Financial support was provided by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Danish Cooperation for Environment in the Arctic (DANCEA), and the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

300_2015_1830_MOESM1_ESM.docx (296 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 295 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Bechshoft
    • 1
    • 6
  • C. Sonne
    • 1
  • J. Jakobsen
    • 2
  • F. F. Rigét
    • 1
  • E. W. Born
    • 3
  • R. J. Letcher
    • 4
  • B. M. Jenssen
    • 5
  • R. Dietz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Bioscience, Faculty of Science and Technology, Arctic Research Centre (ARC)Aarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  2. 2.National Food InstituteTechnical University of DenmarkSøborgDenmark
  3. 3.Greenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  4. 4.Wildlife and Landscape Science Directorate, Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research CentreCarleton University (Raven Road)OttawaCanada
  5. 5.Department of BiologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  6. 6.CW405, Biological Sciences CenterUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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