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[“The Health-Care Professional’s Column”]
When you read the label on supplements in a health-food store and find Vitamin A listed, it will also state that it is “in the form of Beta Carotene,” or “as Beta Carotene.” This is a misrepresentation, implying that Beta Carotene is the same as Vitamin A. It is not.
Vitamin A is an animal molecule. It is an essential nutrient that is needed by the body for beautiful skin, good eyesight, and a healthy immune system, along with many other uses.
There is no Vitamin A in carrots or in any plants. Vitamin A is only found in varying amounts in the liver of animals, commonly beef, chicken, duck, fish, lamb, etc. Most people don’t eat enough liver, or none at all. It’s also important to find sources from animals that are raised properly – grass fed, pasture raised, or wild.
Beta Carotene is one part of a complex of carotenoids, which are plant-based molecules. They don’t exist in animal form (other than in the stomach of an animal that has just eaten a plant). Beta Carotene is an antioxidant that is also important for a healthy body and is found in carrots and brightly-colored fruits and vegetables. The different colors designate the various types of carotenoids.
Liver is known as pre-formed Vitamin A. Some say Beta Carotene is a “non-preformed” form of Vitamin A. This statement only adds to the confusion.
Another misconception is that our bodies are supposed to be able to convert Beta Carotene into Vitamin A. The research clearly shows that no one is able to convert it 100 per cent. Some people convert it as little as 5 percent, while others are not able to convert it at all. The ability to make the conversion also depends on a person’s health. Many people think that they are healthy, but in reality are not. While everyone needs both Vitamin A and Beta Carotene, most people don’t get enough of either in their diet.
We don’t need large amounts of Vitamin A. Consuming 4 to 6 ounces of liver once every one to two weeks will provide the average healthy person with adequate amounts unless one has cancer or a respiratory problem such as asthma, emphysema, or COPD, in which case one will need more Vitamin A.
Blood tests for Vitamin A are not what a good healthcare practitioner relies on because the “normal” range was set for the “average person” and today, that “average person” (one in two) has cancer, so we don’t want to rely on those “average” blood values.
Can one take too much Vitamin A? The physicians’ Merck Manual states that a dose as LOW as 100,000 IU per day may cause problems in older children and adults if taken for many months. I usually recommend my patients to take 10 to 15,000 IU of real Vitamin A per day. I have never seen a toxicity reaction from this with anyone. If you ever do become toxic, just stop taking it and the symptoms go away on their own. There are no long-term side effects with Vitamin A toxicity (in contrast to the many drug side effects we see today).
Remember to add up all the Vitamin A from your food and your supplements: For example, if you want to take 10,000 IU of Vitamin A total, and your cod liver oil has 1,000 IU and your multi-vitamin has 1,000 IU, then you will only need to supplement with another 8,000 IU of Vitamin A.
In summary: Beta Carotene is a good antioxidant, as are other carotenoids, but you cannot count on converting it into Vitamin A. If you aren’t getting real Vitamin A from liver, you may be deficient in it. Building a healthy immune system, improving respiration, eyesight, night blindness, and skin tissue can all be helped by Vitamin A, not Beta Carotene, but it is important that we have both.
About the Author
David J. Getoff, CTN, CCN, FAAIM, has a private practice in San Diego, California, where he works with all areas of health and wellness. David developed a course in holistic nutrition called Attaining Optimal Health in the 21st Century.* The classes are held at the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation in Lemon Grove, California (www. price-pottenger.org; 619-462-7600) and are sponsored by Grossmont/Cuyamaca College Adult Education Department.
*Also available on CDs from the PPNF online store.
Published in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing
Spring 2009 | Volume 33, Number 1
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