Why You Should Be Supplementing With Vitamin A
I'm sure you've heard the popular saying, "Everything in moderation" a time or two.
For most things, it's a solid policy to stick to. However, when it comes to enjoying your hobby of walking blindfolded across the interstate, it's not a truism...you should just stop walking blindfolded in traffic.
In the case of one particular vitamin, moderation might be key. I say might because, for an inadvisable reason, medical professionals have decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say this vitamin has a very great risk of harming unborn children.
Look, I wouldn't tell you to do anything that jeopardizes your health; and believe me, avoiding this vitamin because of some inconclusive theories is actually a bigger mistake than you might imagine.
Why You Desperately Need More Vitamin A + Why Recommendations For Pregnant Women To Avoid It Are Plain Wrong
Just so you understand how ingesting an excess of vitamin A works, let me clear something up for you about taking too many vitamins at one time.
Sometimes it's not a bad thing to get a short, sustained dose of high levels of certain vitamins. In these instances, a quick zap of higher than normal levels of certain vitamins might actually be the recommended course of action to help treat a problem.
This is true of vitamin C and vitamin B complexes.
In other cases, the opposite is true.
Yes, you can experience toxicity from getting too much of a good thing. I won't explain the reason right here, but getting way too much Vitamin D and folic acid are examples that comes to mind.
In the case of vitamin A, too much consumption does have a proven risk of some health problems; but, if you've ever heard a medical professional say (or read on a blog somewhere) that you should pretty much eliminate vitamin A supplementation from your diet, you ought to pause for a second.
Vitamin A, also known as retinol (not beta-carotene), is a very powerful antioxidant.
For the most part, recommendations to cease supplementing with it are said because they associate studies tying a chemical derivative of vitamin A called "isotretinoin"(commonly known as Accutane) with birth defects.
I will by completely honest - there are some loose links between excessive (over 25,000 IUs) vitamin A supplementation and birth defects. But again, moderation is key, so remember that.
The interesting thing here is it's actually proven avoiding vitamin A during pregnancy can cause a cluster of problems you might never expect.
As Kate Rheaume-Bleue writes:
That's a pretty decent reason for pregnant women not to skip getting vitamin A, wouldn't you agree?
But what if you're not pregnant? Why do you need more vitamin A?
Good question; allow me to give you several answers.
5 Awesome Reasons to Take Vitamin A
My guess is you've probably never experienced someone jumping up and fervently telling you to take more vitamin A - at least not like how they tell you to take vitamins C, E and B.
Part of the reason is people mistakenly believe they get enough of it through diet alone.
Quick wake up call: vitamin A is not found in carrots, nor many of the other foods you believe it to be in.
That's because beta-carotene is not vitamin A; it just serves as a potential precursor to vitamin A. Your body can convert beta-carotene to vitamin A, but it's extremely inefficient at doing so.
Worse yet, many times food labels actually claim beta-carotene in food is the same as vitamin A. So, while you're there eating your kale and thinking you're taking care of your vitamin A intake, you're actually not...
That's why you should either supplement with it or eat foods which contain real vitamin A in them (more on that in the next section).
Here's what happens when you get more vitamin A in your diet:
You help protect your cells:
As mentioned above, vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin A promotes tissue differentiation - this simply means vitamin A works on the cellular level to make sure cells turn into the kind of cell they're meant to be...and not into a cell that can be invaded.
Research has shown vitamin A is especially effective at helping promote tissue differentiation in the colon and the cervix.
It promotes healthy fetal development:
As you read above, normal amounts of vitamin A don't necessarily present a risk to babies. As a matter of fact, without it, babies are actually physiologically unprepared for birth.
Vitamin A is absolutely essential for the development of the central nervous system, lungs, limbs, and more. Truth is, even missing out on a little bit of vitamin A during pregnancy can have severe and long-lasting health effects on a child.
It can give you healthier skin:
You might have been led to believe vitamin E is the only vitamin necessary for healthier skin. Not so, as vitamin A also plays a role in healthy skin.
As a matter of fact, vitamin A deficiencies will first present themselves in the skin.Vitamin A has some pretty powerful effects, and will help improve the integrity of the all-important epithelium (a delicate skin-like tissue lining the mouth, nose, throat, eyes, stomach, digestive tract, bladder, urinary tract, vagina and almost every bodily organ).
It helps boost immunity:
As Rheaume-Blue writes: "Vitamin A has long been known as [an immunity booster] because it plays an essential role in protecting the body from [invaders].
Retinol seems to boost immunity in several ways, including the maintenance of healthy skin and respiratory tract tissue and optimal production of antibodies and white blood cells in response to foreign bacteria and viruses."
It helps build healthier bones:
You likely thought the only vitamins needed for healthy bones were vitamin D and K2. Not so fast - vitamin A also plays a very special role to help build stronger bones. Vitamin A activates cells known as osteoclasts, which break down bone tissue so it can be rebuild later. Without vitamin A, you can rest assured the building of healthy bones won't happen as it should.
The Best Places to Get Vitamin A
You probably figured out the answer to that question is not carrots.
If you're looking to dietary sources, the USDA would say these are some of the best:
- Cow's liver, cooked, 3 oz 27,185
- Chicken liver, cooked, 3 oz 12,325
- Whole milk, 3.25% milk fat, 1 cup 249
- Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 284
- Whole egg, 1 medium 280
You'll likely notice there's a lot of liver there (which most people aren't the biggest fans of), and a lot of dairy.
Well, if you've been following my writing for any amount of time, you know I don't recommend dairy.
That leaves supplementation as the next best option.
My personal and professional recommendation is to get 10,000 IUs daily.
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