Vitamin A—Taking a Closer Look

Vitamin A—Taking a Closer Look

Vitamin A deserves a closer look because it’s essential to so many critical functions in our bodies. A partial list includes:
• Maintaining healthy skin, including prevention of dry skin, eczema and acne
• Optimizing adrenal, thyroid and liver function
• Producing new cells throughout the body
• Keeping eyes healthy
• Building strong bones and muscles
• Producing new blood cells and insuring normal blood clotting
• Building a strong immune system
• Maintaining a healthy nervous system
• Assuring a healthy lymphatic system (thymus gland, tonsils and appendix)
• Healing inflammation or infection
• Sustaining all aspects of pregnancy
• Supporting normal growth in young children

After considering this list, it becomes apparent that an adequate levels of vitamin A is extremely important in order for us to enjoy good health. So, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Let’s begin by revisiting the list, starting with the lymphatic system. A deficiency of vitamin A causes the thymus gland to atrophy and be considered useless by adulthood. Adequate levels of vitamin A can actually cause the thymus gland to return to its normal size and function. An important fact because the thymus is often referred to as the master gland responsible for helping people stay healthy and overcome disease.

As far back as 1966 Howard Bierman, MD, of Loma Linda Research Center, alerted the American College of Surgeons that removal of an unhealthy appendix could lead to leukemia. This is another reminder of the importance of our lymphatic system. ¹

In regard to the immune system, vitamin A is called the anti-infection vitamin. People tend to experience more infections (e.g. colds, flu, sinus and bladder) when they are deficient in this nutrient. Left uncorrected these problems may become chronic resulting in repeated use of antibiotics and deteriorating health.

Vitamin A is also referred to as the growth vitamin. When a child falls below normal range on growth charts, a vitamin A deficiency should be considered as a contributing factor. It would also be a very important factor in a situation where there is failure-to-thrive.

Considering the above, I believe it is clear that adequate levels of this vitamin are needed to avoid or recover from countless health challenges. This can be accomplished in two ways: 1) eating foods rich in naturally occurring vitamin A and 2) supplementation. Let’s begin by looking at food as our source.
Like all other naturally occurring nutrients, vitamin A is actually a whole family of compounds: retinol, retinal, carotenes and carotenoids. In food you always find them with other nutrients such as essential fatty acids, chlorophyll, other vitamins (C, D and E), proteins and minerals. ²

Retinol and retinal, called preformed vitamin A, are found in animal food. They can be used by the body within three to five hours of eating. Carotenes and carotenoids are found in vegetables and fruit. In order to be used as vitamin A, these compounds must be converted to retinol. This process takes place in the liver and requires much more time. Depending on the health of a person’s liver, no more than ¼ to ⅓ of the carotenes are converted to retinol. ³

The best sources of retinol, or preformed vitamin A, are non-gmo organic eggs (including the yolk), beef (grass-fed is best), and dark meat of chicken and turkey. I recommend two to three servings daily from any of these preformed sources. All brightly colored vegetables and fruit (red, orange, yellow and dark green) have carotenes and/or carotenoids. I also recommend five or more servings daily from these sources. A good principle to remember in regard to any essential nutrient (vitamins and minerals) is to eat a variety of organic foods.

Now let’s consider using supplements to build up our vitamin A levels. It’s critical to understand that not all supplements are created equal. They are either natural (not manufactured) or synthetic (created in a laboratory). Raw, fermented cod liver oil is a natural food source of preformed vitamin A and the only supplement I recommend using. Synthetic forms of this nutrient are actually created in a laboratory and have a different chemical structure. Our bodies are unable to recognize or use these synthetics to build health. You may have heard some of their names: beta carotene, retinoic acid (Accutane) and vitamin A palmitate. Furthermore, the synthetics are actually harmful and toxic.

Consider this partial list of possible side effects caused by these supplements:

• Abnormal growth of the liver and spleen
• Elevation of liver enzymes
• Development of high blood pressure
• Hardening of the arteries
• Leaching of calcium out of bones (osteoporosis)
• Accumulation of calcium deposits in soft tissue
• Gout
• Thinning of hair
• Irregular menstrual periods
• Insomnia and/or night sweats

If we take a closer look, we’ll discover that:

Any inflammation or infection in our body greatly increases the body’s demand for vitamin A. Yet using its synthetic form—such as beta-carotene—does not give good results.

Natural vitamin A is very helpful in healing excess inflammation. Synthetic vitamin A—as pure retinoic acid (retin A)—interferes with healing and repair when we have excess inflammation and infection.
The use of synthetic retinols can give short-term results but will almost always result in vitamin imbalances and toxicity. “A cumulative effect of toxicity with increasing doses of synthetic vitamin A has been shown.”⁴

Natural forms of vitamin A definitely help clear up acne. Whereas, “Carefully controlled studies using synthetic A failed to be effective”.⁵

Accutane—a synthetic vitamin A product— is used to treat acne, psoriasis and other diseases. Some very common side effects include depression, anxiety, crying spells, fatigue and forgetfulness.

Having taken a closer look at vitamin A and considering the facts, we have to conclude it is a very important nutrient. Equally important are the sources we choose to insure adequate levels to sustain or regain vibrant health. Organic food sources should always be our first choice. Foods contain the entire vitamin A complex, not just beta carotene for example. It is the combination of all these factors working together that helps you to be well. One factor separated out of the food is foreign to your body. It may hurt you, it may not, but it does not have the capacity to help you.

When including supplementation, raw, fermented cod liver oil is the only choice. It’s hard to find so call my office for the one I recommend (773-262-7611).

• The Journal: Biomedical Nitty-Gritty, Richard P Murray, D.C., P.A., “Inflammation Part III”, December, 1981
• The Real Truth About Vitamins And Anti-Oxidants, Judith A DeCava, MS, LNC, pp 83-99
• The Vitamins In Medicine, Bicknell and Prescott, Third Edition, pp 1-16
• The Real Truth About Vitamins And Anti-Oxidants, Judith A DeCava, MS, LNC, pp 83-99
• ibid