Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
This week I want to talk about another important vitamin called Vitamin A, an essential vitamin i.e., your body can’t produce it and you have to have it.
Note: Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble vitamins which means they can be stored. Healthy fats are good for absorption. Always remember that fat soluble vitamins should be taken with food.
The Forms Of Vitamin A
There are 3 forms of Vitamin A:
- Retinyl Esters
There are only two forms to be concerned about:
- Preformed Vitamin A that comes from animal products: You get this mostly from dairy, (especially) egg yolks, liver, and salmon, and among other things like oils. You can also get preformed Vitamin A through synthetic Vitamin A supplements.
- Pro Vitamin A comes from plants. This is Beta Carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. They mostly come from green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, and fruits.
Preformed Vitamin A you can get too much of. Pro Vitamin A, like Beta Carotene, you cannot get too much of because your body won’t over utilize it.
Uses Of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for cell growth, immunity, fetal development, and vision. As you get older, vision becomes more of a concern. That’s why Vitamin A is important to talk about.
Speaking of vision, Vitamin A combines with an element called opsom to form rhodopsin which is necessary for color vision and light vision. As you get older you’ll notice that you don’t see as well at night. It also maintains your cornea and conjunctiva (outermost lining of your eyes).
Vitamin A is also very good for the surfaces of your body. Surface tissues like skin, intestines, lungs, and your bladder.
Vitamin A supports T Cells. This is very important especially with Covid-19 because of innate immunity. T Cells are a type of white blood cell that fight infection.
It’s an important antioxidant. It clears out free radicals and protects against age related macular degeneration.
It protects against cancer, especially lung cancer.
A study of 10,000 adults determined that those with the highest levels of carotenoids have lower risk of dying from lung cancer. Those in the study who were smokers with high levels of carotenoids even had lower risk of dying of lung cancer than non smokers who had the lowest levels of carotenoids.
Note: Be careful if you smoke and think “Well, I’ll just take a lot of Vitamin A.” If you take too much it can actually increase your risk. So DON’T SMOKE.
High levels of carotenoids also lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers as well.
It helps with reproduction because it’s important for sperm and egg quality.
Vitamin A works well with Vitamin D for bone health just like Vitamin K does. And remember that Magnesium is essential for Vitamin D as well.
Vitamin A Deficiencies
Vitamin A deficiencies are the leading cause of blindness in children. Usually this happens outside of the US because of lack of access to quality food in third world countries.
Vitamin A deficiency is also the leading cause of nighttime blindness.
Deficiency of Vitamin A can cause an increase in production of keratin, the protein that can plug skin follicles and cause acne. This is why Vitamin A can help prevent acne, i.e., Retin A cream. We put this on your skin for acne (and also to decrease wrinkles).
Anyone over the age of 30 who has gotten a lot of sun exposure we put on Retin A cream.
The most potent form of Retin A is Accutane (a prescription medication given mostly by Dermatologists). The huge doses of direct Vitamin A in Accutane is how it works for severe cystic acne.
Note: Another thing that can help with acne is Zinc. Both in adolescents and adults.
How Much Should You Take?
The RDA recommends 900 micrograms a day for men and 700 micrograms per day for women. I call the RDA “Real Dumb Advice” because you need more than this.
Some say don’t go over 10,000 iu’s, which would equal 3,000 micrograms. You could get toxic on it, but it would be difficult. It could cause liver damage, nausea, and headache. Again this would be hard to do.
Remember, most Vitamin A supplements are plant based carotenoids, so you can take too much and your body won’t over utilize it.
The surest and safest way to get Vitamin A is, of course, through food. It’s just hard to get what you need from food alone.
You could get too much direct Vitamin A, i.e Accutane, which has something like 200,000 iu’s (60,000 micrograms of direct Vitamin A). This could be toxic, which is why they follow your liver enzymes.
If you think you could be low in Vitamin A, which is fairly common, especially in anemic patients, you can check vitamin levels through a special Quest lab panel. This also will check RBC Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Vitamin D and Ceruloplasmin which all interact with each other.
Vitamin A is an essential fat soluble vitamin that you should think about taking.
The main thing is to take it in the right forms.
It’s anti cancer, antioxidant, good for your skin, good for vision, and good for younger people in their reproductive years.