We’ve Got Bone-Breaking News About Vitamin A9 months ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Many of us may try to keep our bones fracture-resistant by making sure we get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, two nutrients that promote strong, healthy bones. But reportedly, more than 10 million Americans suffer from bone fractures each year.
But would you be surprised if I told you that along with the causes of broken bones mentioned above, an intake of too much vitamin A may be another risk you need to add to your radar?
A recent study published in the Journal of Endocrinology found evidence that having too much vitamin A may increase your risk of bone fractures. More specifically, too much vitamin A may decrease bone thickness. And thinner bones means weaker, more fracture-prone bones.
“Scientists believe that excessive amounts of vitamin A trigger an increase in osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. They also believe that too much vitamin A may interfere with vitamin D, which plays an important role in preserving bone,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The researchers of the study used mice to test high vitamin A consumption and its effect on bones. Mice who sustained an intake of vitamin A 4.5-13 times the human recommended daily allowance (RDA) experienced weakening of the bones.
“Some evidence has suggested that people who take vitamin A supplements may be increasing their risk of bone damage,” according to one report on the study.
“Previous studies in mice have shown that short-term overdosing of vitamin A, at the equivalent of 13-142 times the recommended daily allowance in people, results in decreased bone thickness and an increased fracture risk after just 1-2 weeks.”
The more recent study is said to be the first to analyze the impact of lower (but still high) vitamin A doses (ones that are more on par with people who take vitamin A supplements) over longer periods of time. Although the study lasted 10 weeks, mice given 4.5-13 times the RDA of vitamin A for humans had thinner bones just after eight days. This thinning progressed over the course of the study.
“In our study we have shown that much lower concentrations of vitamin A, a range more relevant for humans, still decreases rodent bone thickness and strength," says one of the lead doctors on the study.
“Overconsumption of vitamin A may be an increasing problem as many more people now take vitamin supplements. Overdose of vitamin A could be increasing the risk of bone weakening disorders in humans but more studies are needed to investigate this. In the majority of cases, a balanced diet is perfectly sufficient to maintain the body's nutritional needs for vitamin A.”
So Let’s Break This All Down.
Vitamin A is a nutrient that we all need. It’s actually great for bone health and just as important as other nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium and others. Along with bone growth, vitamin A plays a role in vision, immune system health, reproduction, cell division and cell differentiation. Vitamin A is also a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation by reducing free radical damage.
But having too much of a good thing, like vitamin A, can create health issues. Most people can get an adequate amount of vitamin A by consuming a balanced diet.
Foods rich in vitamin A include plant foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, swiss chard, apricots, cantaloupe, red bell pepper, grapefruit, broccoli and mango. Animal food sources of vitamin A include eggs (specifically the yolk), certain meats and cheese.
So unless you have a restrictive diet, you probably don’t need vitamin A supplements. However, alcoholism (consuming too much alcohol zaps the body of nutrients), aging, taking certain medications and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may make it difficult for certain people to have an optimal amount of vitamin A. So there may be instances where we need to work with a competent healthcare professional to adjust our vitamin A levels.
It is easy to walk into practically any grocery store or health store and buy whatever supplements you want. So it may not seem like a big deal to buy a multivitamin and take it for good measure. But I like to think of supplements as prescription drugs. We shouldn’t be taking them unless we need them and a competent healthcare professional prescribes them.
Taking certain multivitamins may cause you to exceed your limit of vitamins such as vitamin A and this could have health consequences.
It is difficult to know whether your vitamin A (or any other nutrient) levels are appropriate unless you take a nutrient test. So discuss your lifestyle, diet, medications you are taking, existing health issues and any symptoms you may be experiencing with a competent healthcare professional. Doing this along with a nutrient test, will clear up any uncertainty about your nutritional needs. And from there you can take proactive steps to meet your nutritional requirements, whether that involves supplementation or not.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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