Vitamin A sounds so compelling. It is one of the vitamins which bears the cache of being an “antioxidant.” This class of vitamins helps the body clear those toxic free radicals and stop damage to cells, theoretically helping reduce cancer and heart disease. What could be bad about this?
On a broad scale it is probably true that antioxidants do all of these great things. However, that does not necessarily mean that taking large amounts of supplemental vitamin A (as most standard multivitamins contain) will actually have that intended affect. In fact, the opposite may occur. Taking the wrong amounts of certain supplements may actually increase rates of cancer. It’s true! You have to be careful with these products – even if they are sold over the counter.
Who needs to take Vitamin A?
As it turns out, vitamin A (a vitamin consisting of both retinol and beta-carotene) is found in many fruits and vegetables in moderate amounts. Very few people in developed countries lack in this vitamin. Those living in extreme poverty or in the developing world often have bouts of vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness. Remember your mother telling you to eat your carrots so you can see better? She did know a little something. But most of us actually are doing pretty well as far as obtaining vitamin A from our diet.
Why does that matter? What is the problem with taking too much Vitamin A?
Well, too much of a good thing is not always better. In looking at the medical research, it seems that taking supplemental vitamin A really does little good and, in fact, may cause harm. Several studies showed that people who took supplemental vitamin A had significantly higher risks of cancer – principally lung cancer (but also prostate cancer in men).
Likewise, studies looking at impact on heart disease show little benefit to vitamin A supplementation, and perhaps harm. On top of that, higher vitamin A intake also has been shown to greatly increase rates of osteopenia (decreased bone density) and hip fractures in women. Although many touted vitamin A supplementation as useful for preventing cataracts and macular degeneration, many large trials have shown no benefit to supplementing vitamin A in this arena either.
Why should you care? Don’t most multivitamins have a safe amount of Vitamin A?
Ironically, most standard multivitamins contain exceedingly high doses of vitamin A – sometimes up to five times the US recommended daily allowance. So what about your mother imploring you to improve your eyesight? We say stop the madness and get your vitamin A the way nature intended you to, by eating a healthy and balanced diet. It takes just a minimal amount of fruit or vegetables to meet the US recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. So, eat your carrots and take only the supplements you need (Find Your Vous®), not those that could be potentially harmful.
What vitamins should you take? Looking for an all in one vitamin solution? Take our vitamin survey to get a custom vitamin that contains the vitamins you need.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.