Episode 26: Vitamin A eh?

Vitamin A, also called Retinol, plays key roles in maintaining healthy vision, skin, immunity and reproduction. Some of the signs that Vitamin A is deficient are poor night vision, follicular hyperkeratosis (bumpy chicken skin) on the upper arms and brittle, thin fingernails, decreased immunity to infection, copious menstrual bleeding (also called metrorrhagia) and impaired sperm production.

Some of the things that can cause Vitamin A deficiency include hypothyroidism, liver diseases (hepatitis), alcoholism, gastrointestinal surgeries and intestinal parasites. In addition, although vitamin A can be synthesized via beta-carotene, the amount is limited, which is why vegetarians and vegans may become deficient.

As far as supplementation with vitamin A goes, like the other fat soluble vitamins D,E and K, too much is just as bad as not enough. When there is too much vitamin A in our systems, warning signs like fatigue, muscle and headaches, joint and bone pains, and dry skin will occur. However, some context is also required here. Acute toxic doses for a healthy non-alcoholic 70 kg person would be on the order of 1.75 million IU (international units) taken all at once. The amount of vitamin A that could build up into toxic doses for that same person mentioned above would need to be 50,000IU/day for a period of about 2 years or 150,000-600,000IU/day for 2 months. Once the above signs of toxicity are present, stopping the supplement generally reverses all damage in most cases. Elevated doses like these are always monitored by a physician via serum calcium and liver enzyme blood tests.

That brings us to the intervention. Vitamin A is best absorbed in the presence of a Zinc/copper combined supplement (in a ratio of 10:1 in favor of zinc). Generally speaking oil based Vitamin A liquid drops are the safest form to take. The dosage would be about 10-20,000IU/day for a 70kg healthy person (which is 1-2 drops). In addition, 15mg of Zinc and 1mg of copper (as a combined supplement) would also need to be taken. Alternatively, eating a palm sized portion of liver and onions, once a week or 4-5 tablespoons of Cod-Liver oil daily would suffice (in addition to the zinc).

Tune in next week when we’ll talk about Zinc.

Be Well and Be Zen



  1. Gaby., Vitamin A., Nutritional Medicine (2011)., ps.53-59., ISBN13: 978-0-9828850-0-0. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Concord, NH.
  2. C. Atkins., Dr. Atkins Vita-Nutrient Solution (1998)., ps.43-48, 132-137., ISBN: 0-684-81849-3


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