The Best Natural Vitamin: Surprising Facts on Vitamin A

The Best Natural Vitamin - Vitamin A is an important nutrient. It is especially helpful in the bodies of infants and toddlers for fighting off the effects of viral infection. It helps maintain the immune system in both children and adults. It plays a critical role in the creation of thyroid hormones and is absolutely necessary for creating the pigments that allow you to see at night. You have to get your vitamin A to have healthy skin.

Here's a list of just some of the reasons the best natural vitamin, vitamin A, is vital:

  • A byproduct of vitamin A called retinoic acid helps cells respond to thyroid hormone.
  • Among women who have a family history of breast cancer, higher intake vitamin A is associated with lower rates of cancer before menopause.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) are transmitted 4 to 200 times more readily when the carrier suffers vitamin A deficiency.
  • In the fetus, vitamin A is essential for the formation of the heart, eyes, and ears.
  • Mild deficiency in vitamin A increases risk of diarrhea and fevers in children.
  • Mild vitamin A deficiency can lead to inflammation at the corners of the eyes.
  • Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to xerophthalmia, a condition of extremely dry eyes.
  • The retina uses vitamin A to make rhodopsin, also known as visual purple. This pigment allows the retina to detect very small amounts of light, making night vision possible.
  • Vitamin A helps maintain the integrity of the mucosa in the ears, nose, and throat, protecting them against infection.

Amazingly, many natural health experts offer the opinion that you don't need this best natural vitamin at all. Your body can make vitamin A from beta-carotene, they say, or vitamin A is toxic if taken to excess. Still other health experts say that you need this best natural vitamin, that you have to get your vitamin A, but the only way you can get it is from (their particular brand of) fish oil. What's the truth?

For a long time, nutritional researchers didn't know how to measure this best natural vitamin. This vitamin is fat-soluble. When you consume foods or supplements containing vitamin A or beta-carotene, your bloodstream concentrations don't go up. Recent research has found that these vitamins go straight into your fat cells.

That's why a simple blood test can't tell you if your vitamin A levels are going up, down, or staying the same. In rare instances in which people took 60 to 600 times the recommended dosage of this best natural vitamin, there have been serious side effects (night blindness, or in children of mothers who took overdoses of vitamin A in early pregnancy, birth defects). Since nutritionists couldn't tell you how much vitamin A to take, they recommended you take none at all. You could get your nutritional needs from beta-carotene, they said.

The problem is, you can't.

Like its chemical cousin vitamin A, beta-carotene is also fat soluble. The beta-carotene you consume goes to your fat cells, not into circulation.

The more fat you have in your body, the more beta-carotene they soak up, and the less of the best natural vitamin A is made for the rest of your tissues. Your fat cells, however, should be in great shape!

If you're in the minority of people who aren't overweight, beta-carotene can be converted into the best natural vitamin A by your liver, lungs, and kidneys. The tissues, however, can only produce about 20% of the amount of vitamin A your body need, less if you suffer liver, lung, or kidney disease.

Vitamin A can also be produced by beta-carotene in the intestine. If you consumed no supplemental vitamin A and no vitamin A-rich foods at all, this is where your body would get most of the vitamin.

The problem with producing vitamin A in the intestine is obvious. The contents of the intestine are in constant motion. There is a real risk of losing the best natural vitamin A the intestine makes into waste material.

If you get your vitamin A from food rather than supplements, what are the foods you need. Here's the rather short list:

Food Serving Vitamin A, measured as retinol equivalents Vitamin A, IU Retinol, measured in micrograms Retinol, measured in IU
Cod liver oil 1 teaspoon 1,350 mcg 4,500 IU 1,350 mcg 4,500 IU
Egg 1 large 91 mcg 303 IU 89 mcg 296 IU
Butter 1 tablespoon 97 mcg 323 IU 95 mcg 317 IU
Whole milk 1 cup (8 fl ounces) 68 mcg 227 IU 68 mcg 227 IU

(Source: The Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, 2005.)

To this list, you could add skim milk, usually packaged with the artificial analog of the best natural vitamin A. There's also vitamin A in many breakfast cereals, and, were you inclined to use it as health food, caviar. Any natural food that's rich in vitamin A is high in fat and cholesterol.

If you don't want the fat and cholesterol, you can take beta-carotene:

  • Your body needs 2 retinol equivalents (a measurement that takes into account the different weights of molecules of beta-carotene and retinol, the basic form of vitamin A) of beta-carotene in supplements to make 1 retinol equivalent of vitamin A.
  • Your body needs 24 retinol equivalents of beta-carotene in food to make 1 retinol equivalent of vitamin A.
You can replace a teaspoon of cod liver oil with a pound of squash. You can replace a teaspoon of butter with two cantaloupes. Whether you use cod liver oil, eggs, butter, and whole milk, or you load up on orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, you can get your body's requirements of the best natural vitamin A from food.

It just takes some work. The simpler approach to vitamin "insurance" is to use a supplement. And natural isn't necessarily best.

Consumers are often cautioned that too much of this best natural vitamin can be toxic. Expectant mothers are warned that too much vitamin A can cause birth defects.

What the experts overlook is that the form of vitamin A that is known to cause birth defects is a pharmaceutical derivative known by its trade name Accutane. This is physiologically the exact opposite of the best natural vitamin A. Too much of this synthetic derivative of vitamin A indeed can cause serious problems. Supplemental vitamin A, whether taken fish oil or synthetic, does not.

Even 300,000 IU a day for a year will not necessarily cause ill effects, but a much lower dose is all you need. When there are urinary or respiratory infections, the best natural vitamin A to support mucosal function can be taken in doses of up to 200,000 IU a day for up to 5 days. People with HIV or chronic viral hepatitis might take up to 25,000 IU a day for up to a year. The rest of us can benefit from up to 5,000 IU a day indefinitely, although lower dosages are also adequate.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A as Preformed Vitamin A (Retinol)
Life Stage Age Females: mcg/day (IU/day) Males: mcg/day (IU/day)
Infants 0-6 months 400 (1333 IU) 400 (1333 IU)
Infants 7-12 months 500 (1667 IU) 500 (1667 IU)
Children 1-3 years 300 (1000 IU) 300 (1000 IU)
Children 4-8 years 400 (1333 IU) 400 (1333 IU)
Children 9-13 years 600 (2000 IU) 600 (2000 IU)
Adolescents 14-18 years 700 (2333 IU) 900 (3000 IU)
Adults 19 years and older 700 (2333 IU) 900 (3000 IU)
Pregnancy 18 years and younger 750 (2500 IU) -
Pregnancy 19-years and older 770 (2567 IU) -
Breastfeeding 18 years and younger 1,200 (4000 IU) -
Breastfeeding 19-years and older 1,300 (4333 IU) -

(Source, US Department of Agriculture, 2004.)

Your key consideration in using vitamin A isn't whether it's "natural" or synthetic, provided, of course, you aren't using the pharmaceutical form of the vitamin called Accutane. Your key consideration in using vitamin A is whether you are using supplements in conjunction with a reasonable program of weight control.

The heavier you are, the more likely you are to suffer the conditions associated with inadequate vitamin A. Vitamin A can help you remain healthy while you are normalizing and stabilizing your weight, but if once normal vitamin A levels are established, the real question for most of us, are we at our proper weights?

A Comprehensive Product

We suggest you get your vitamin A from a balanced nutirtiional supplement. One company that produces a product that meets the these requirements -- and more -- is Xtend-Life from New Zealand, which has one of the strictest regulatory environments in the world for the manufacture of dietary supplements, far exceeding U.S. FDA standards. Their flagship Formula, Total Balance, contains vitamin A(beta-carotine) and also includes vitamin E which compliments the beta-carotine, and selenium, in addition to a full spectrum of herbal extracts, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and speciality nutrients. In fact, it contains the majority of supplements we cover on this entire site!

We here at The-Vitamin-and-Supplement-Guide have been taking Total Balance for the last 10 years with excellent results.

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